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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter

This Summer After

The pond changes with the time of day, the caste of sky and of course the seasons. Even then it’s as if it had its own source of light beneath the water and the muck, beneath the swarms of minnows, the flat undersides of snapping turtles, the quick dart of frogs.

Circling above the surface, claiming their spot, dining needles and dragonflies glint. Further up, past the treetops, vultures and an occasional hawk, ride currents of air. Every once in a great while a great blue heron lands and holds the little shore.

I always imagined I’d live by the sea, alongside the constant breath of tides. The swish of waves in calm weather, the pounding surf on rougher days. Instead, I am land locked. This last year bound close to home, and with a new dog, I walked the shoreline of the little pond, the perimeter of the field, the hill of the driveway. I walked the same steps again and again. And each time it was different.

The tone of light, the shift of birdsong, the glimmer of spiderwebs in the grass. The changing green of the leaves. The dandelions giving way to daisies and Queen Anne’s lace, the tangled brambles holding berries as they ripen from hard bright red to a deep purple blue black.

The same is not the same. The familiar is only so when you stop looking. At the pond there is the suddenness of tadpoles, the luminescent blue green of frog eggs. In the fields the rise and fall of a seventeen year cicada symphony which sounds like the sea edging its shore.

This inland place where the karst landscape beneath the deer paths causes the land to dip and rise. The sky is rarely still, filling with imprints of weather from the gulf in the nearer south, to the great arctic systems to the far north. There is always something changing.

The pretty quietness is deceptive. Sudden thunder trembles everything and the wind rises bending the trees, rippling the pond and clanging into downpour. And too, there is a great fault line not far away at all. This land was once the sea, was once at glacier’s edge. Stillness only seems still.

I am reminded that it is the very first day of summer that is the longest day of the year. As we move into the real height of the season, past mid-July and into August, the days grow shorter. We are out and about more each week and yet I am aware that this might only be a reprieve. There is still so much we do not know, so much of what we were once sure that is changing. We can’t return to the same place in its same time, and we are never quite the same ourselves.

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