Walking on water

by: Kathryn True

Every few years, islanders are treated with a rare and miraculous gift: the ability to walk on water – water in its solid state, that is. The far reaches of ponds that we normally gaze longingly at, bound as we are to terrestrial shores, are suddenly accessible. Pond plants going about their watery lives largely undetected by human eyes can be closely studied in their frozen glory—reaching for light even as they are encased in ice.

Fisher pre-dawn. photo by: Kathryn True

Last week, after lacing up my Granny’s Attic skates and venturing out onto Fisher Pond with a group of friends in the inky purple pre-dawn, I was initiated into revelations that are generally the secreted knowledge of the water insects, ducks, and cattails. I was awestruck by the pond’s humming, haunting song, which echoed from shore to shore and reverberated through my body as our skates scored its surface. I was drawn to the perfect, clean black ice—so smooth it seemed a possible entrance into an exotic mirror-world.

Ice bubbles. photo by: Bella Ormseth

As the sun rose, raven flew over calling to her mate. I called “good morning” —taunting them both with my new freedom from earthbound trails. Smug to finally have something on raven! A pileated cackled its dawn greeting from a tall snag, as the tips of far firs were slowly cloaked top-down in a golden pink sheath. At my feet, the sky reflected frozen bubbles trapped in lines of silvery light, or caught mid-spiral like tiny galaxies. Larger bubbles grew beneath the ice as I moved inches above—shaped as space ships, cartoon speech bubbles, and mushrooms. Endless variations and forms spread out in all directions, made more magnificent in my knowledge of their fleeting existence.

For a naturalist, having the chance to travel the pond this way is like entering another world—akin to dipping into the ocean’s secrets via snorkeling. It is a treat to experience first-hand my wild friends’ homes—to peer into that hillock of pond plants so revered by Wood Ducks, to observe up-close the dancer-like reach of lily-pad stems, to venture alongside a scrabble of cattails where a Red-winged Blackbird sounded surprised as he belted out a spring song–his tribute, I guessed, to this strange, icy, new day.

Frost on the ice. photo by: Bella Ormseth

Special thanks to Linda and Gary Peterson for lovingly supplying ice skates so hundreds of islanders can explore Fisher Pond this way. And to the Land Trust for stewarding these special wild places for all of us to enjoy.

Watch this video of a frozen world by Kathryn True.

Featured photo at top of post by: Linda Peterson

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