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

3 Comments on “Walking on water

    Observe the sandy beaches growing within Quartermaster Harbor , coming from Piner Point landslides after severe storms (high tides & excessive SW winds) especially these last two winters. Eel grass once found at minus 1 tides now covered with sand from south of Rosehilla to Manzanita. Is the harbor becoming more shallow? Observe the sandy beach now present at Portage! Whether to remove the planned bulkheads at Northilla which would ADD TO THIS CHANGE should be studied.

    • Good questions. Eel grass needs sandy substrate and declines when beaches become rocky. If sand influences water depth making it shallower I’d expect the eel grass bands to adjust by traveling out from shore a bit more to the depth that they like. Perhaps the current eel grass studies that Washington DNR has been doing for multiple years will help us keep track of this. Vashon Nature Center is currently starting a monitoring program using local residents as citizen scientists to monitor ecological changes due to bulkhead removal projects that King County is starting. We are interested in following the process and seeing what changes occur and how fast they occur. You can read more about this and become involved in helping us monitor if you’d like! More information is available on the BeachNET page of our website: http://vashonnaturecenter.org/beachnet/

      • Where can I find those studies and read them? I have observed sand movement for over 50 years in front of my house drifting north each year. There are remains of a 23 ft boat located now at Rosehilla which drifted north from Northhilla 3 years ago. .

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