Colebrook Journal: of ponds and people and what goes on beneath

24 09 2014

Chimera SmythI am siting with a hot cup of tea up at the house of the folks who own the cabin where I am staying. My hosts are gone at the moment: Mary is in Santa Fe for a class reunion and to visit family, due home in a day or two. Nick is in town flipping burgers for a Kiwanis fundraiser which somehow involves ATVs. In this part of the state, starved for income, ATVs and trails equal a lucrative attraction not unlike snowmobiles or skiing. Railroad tracks have been ripped up and paths through the woods refined so people can roar along for miles, appreciating Nature as it whizzes by them.

They may have it. I’ll refrain from launching into my accustomed rant, and yes, I am sure that, like gun owners, ATV riders can be very nice people with good reasons for their choices. But I have a gut dislike of guns and ATVs that cannot be argued away. It is possible, however, to separate that gut dislike of the thing from a dislike of the people associated with them. That is how peace among neighbors of differing persuasions is possible. I wish it were possible to cultivate that distinction on a national level.

[By the way, I am a few days behind with these posts. In real time, Nick is off again this morning, again on a Kiwanis mission, this time delivering a hospital bed. Seems they have a program where they scavenge discarded hospital equipment and store it, then donate or loan it to people in need. As I mentioned, money isn’t too thick around here, and many folks can’t afford and have no insurance to cover their dire medical needs. So Kiwanis steps in to help. Yes, same folks with the fondness for ATVs and guns.]

I can see a small farm pond from where I am sitting in their living room, looking through the sliding glass doors over the deck to the marvelous view beyond. Apple trees and fields, rolling hills and forests, the maples anticipating the season with colors ahead of their fellows. The way the wind disturbs the surface of the pond is fascinating. On a still day, the surface is like glass, punctuated from beneath by tadpoles and small fish. Water beetles carve erratic Vs in the surface, urgently racing to get wherever it is they are going, which to the uninformed eye, seems to be pretty much nowhere.

Today, the wind whips the trees and sends the leaves spinning up towards the grey sky. No rain, in fact, the sun periodically comes through enough to lend a richness to the color of the trees. There has been a hard frost, but the leaves are only just starting to turn from green to autumn and the wind isn’t able rip them from their stems as easily as it will in another few weeks. The smaller pips and trails of aquatic life are erased by the invisible force of the wind which, like the theists’ God, can be seen only in its actions. The shades of green and yellow of reflected trees and shrubs around the pond are blurred and chipped. Gusts roughen the surface with rapid, irregular, racing streaks of pale grey. It’s a violent scene.

Yet beneath the surface, the residents of the pond go about their fishy business in their customary ways. The violence above doesn’t penetrate to where they are. Surely they can feel the chill beginning to creep in, the sun warming the waters less as the season changes. Time to think about transitioning to winter. But all this present sturm und drang, the whipping of the trees and the scuffing of the surface, the wild wind rattling every loose board and thrashing leaves into a frantic dance, all irrelevant to the fish and frogs.

I want to be down there with them. I want to be a crayfish poking along through the mud on the bottom, stalk-eyes occasionally glancing upwards towards the surface, vaguely aware that something is going on up there. But down in the still waters, there is peace.

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