On one of the last Saturdays of summer, I drove us to the pond at Middlesex Fells. It was something familiar, in a sea of uncertainty, where I thought we could reconnect with our essence and remember when we were happy and full of joy.
The small parking area was full, so we drove down the border road in search of another spot. I periodically pulled over to let angry vehicles storm past.
I grew disheartened, yet on the way back to the highway, figured I would try one more time. I pulled into the narrow drive and paused. Seeing no one behind me, I closed my eyes to summon the quietness and ask for the parking gods to assist me. The indigenous people of this land had their gods of the harvest—modern Bostonians have gods of parking. Miraculously, they answered my prayer with a car that suddenly pulled out, which we gratefully accepted.
As we approached by foot, I could see that the pond, once a glistening oasis teeming with life, had completely dried up. Tall weeds and grasses had taken over, but there was still a barrenness. No birds, no frogs, not a sound. I felt deeply saddened, but still we walked the perimeter, as we had done so many times before, when I lived in town and we were close neighbors and lovers.
“Do you remember?” I asked. You did not.
“Do you remember the concrete steps which led down in places to an inner trail and then the pond?” The steps were still there, but not the soothing, slightly rippling water which once beckoned.
We continued to walk, our steps uncertain, over uneven ground littered with rocks, the once idyllic and pristine trail now dotted with giant felled trees from recent storms, which have grown more violent over the years. They lay around like the fossils of proud dinosaurs, a sad reminder of what once had been.
“Do you remember the stone walls?” They were still there — brief segments of stones with pieces jutting up as if to say, “We will protect this place from the ravages of mankind.” But in the end, they could not.
“Do you remember the long wall at the end? And the island in the middle, where we once saw a very large, exotic bird?”
“Oh. King something…” You were starting to remember! I pondered this as we stood at the end wall looking out over the expanse, once filled with clear water. The lone picnic table was still there as well, bearing witness and awaiting my memory to return.
“King Fisher!” I proudly exclaimed. “Yeah, king fisher,” you agreed.
And we tried to transport ourselves back to that day, so long ago. He stood proud, on that little island, a beacon of serenity and purpose, and a conduit that seemed to join centuries together in a single moment.
That wall steadied my fearful heart, though I saw that there was now graffiti and some refuse thrown around, signaling a lack of respect.
From there, we walked around the other side, where more remembrances flooded in. There were the tiny frogs on the inner path that registered their surprise as we came upon them with a startled “eep!” which made us laugh. We would see red-winged blackbirds flying overhead, which you typically only saw in wooded areas. There were the bullfrogs that spoke to us with their characteristic “Boink!” from out in the pond. You came upon a snake one day, joyfully, on a circular stone structure that jutted out into the water.
You were remembering it all now, as was I, as we shared these stories with each other like lost treasures.
I recalled a trail that led up to an old tower. I was fairly certain of this memory, and we attempted to traverse a path that climbed up towards large boulders. I could hear the roar of the nearby highway. We were both a bit unsteady, navigating fallen trees and rocks in our sneakers. I went up ahead, and then recalled a different path, closer to the entrance – or perhaps just further than I recalled. That would have to wait for another day.
We then ventured, I with some trepidation, out into what had once been the pond. It was eerie, with a lingering smell of moisture and decay, though the ground was dry. You went further out, showing me a tiny residual of life in the mud under your feet.
“Eww,” you exclaimed at some low, broad leaves on the pond bed. I examined them. “I know what these are,” I said slowly, sadness engulfing me. “They’re dried up water lilies.” “You’re right,” you said. We remembered together the serene water lilies, bursting with life, lifting happily from their aqueous roots. This is where the frogs, which you adored, would be. I felt my eyes fill with tears and you embraced me.
“Where do they go?” you wondered. I did not know. “If the situation improves, do they just come back?” Bereft, I could not answer.
If we can bring back the sweet earth to its former glory, will everything return as it was, or are certain things lost forever?
The deep, uplifting blue autumn sky had made a welcome reappearance the previous day, after the smoke from the unprecedented West Coast wildfires had gone up into the atmosphere and drifted over the East Coast, turning the skies an ominous green-gray. In those days, the sun only appeared as a small, light yellow ball. But there were small patches of the deep, unfathomable blue skies that I longed for and rays of sunlight, for a brief window of time, as I picked the fruit off my two dwarf apple trees. And the birds had returned, pecking at the fruit and sharing in the bounty.
This heartened us and I felt my heavy spirit lift. Perhaps, if we act quickly, there is still time.share this: