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The Clearest, Coldest Pond

The big storm hits with pounding rain and swirling winds, but the power stays on and the roof doesn’t leak, and in the night, toward the end of the maelstrom, the rain turns to an abundant snowfall – perhaps 5″ in total – so that by the next morning, the landscape is returned to its former winter glory. It is suddenly cold again, and at first light I ski to Dead Moose Pond, which is arguably one of my three favorite places on earth that I can think of at the moment. The early light is eerie and spectral, the conifer-green wedge of the surrounding forest like the filling of a sandwich between the grey bread of sky and ground. Despite the cold – it’s 5, maybe 6 degrees above 0 – the pond ice is rain-rotten beneath the new snow, and within a few strides I know I won’t be crossing, so I turn back and retrace my tracks to the road, then push north toward the summit of Wheelock Mountain, which is also arguably one of my three favorite places on earth that I can think of at the moment. And so it is that an hour later I find myself at it’s little-heralded-and-even-less-visited peak, which isn’t really a peak so much as a wooded plateau where the boys and I used to joke that every broken and bent over tree was evidence of a resident Sasquatch marking her territory. It’s been a some years since one of the boys has ventured up here with me; I try to remember the last time, the particulars of it, but I can’t, all I can recall are the Sasquatch jokes, all I know is that it happened, and that I surely failed to appreciate the possibility that it wouldn’t happen again. Or at least not for a very long time. But that is the way of it, I suppose, the appreciation so often coming too late for memory to salvage the specifics.

In the evening I fall asleep early, but not before I’ve opened the window above my head just an inch or two so that when I awake in the night I can feel the air drift across my face, just for a moment or two, like the tiniest, gentlest waves of the clearest, coldest pond you’ve ever jumped in.

Another year. I’m grateful to you all for reading and commenting. Happy New Year.

Also, here’s a nice one from Zach to close out 2022.

31 thoughts on “The Clearest, Coldest Pond”

  1. I very much enjoy reading you. Your description off those small moments of your daily life are very calming, soothing to me. There is nothing really sensational happening, but your observations are so sharp that it feels sensational anyway.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Thank you for sharing so much of your year with us. And, yes, all of “the favorite places on earth that I can think of at the moment” too. I love walking, running or riding up and down those hills with you. Be well in this New Year.

  3. I just finished a walk with my son before reading this. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate this moment. There’s no telling how many more like it there will be. Happy New Year!

    1. Mine (twin boys) are 15, and although we still have those moments, the reality that they are dwindling comes down hard on me. Do enjoy your boy and those moments, and consciously take the occasional mental snapshot to revisit in the future.

  4. Hi Ben…..That’s quite the sandwich you described! I can see it. – This is a beautiful piece and a great way to end the year! – Sasquatch is not a male? – In eight weeks I will finally be going home which is in the Eastern Hemisphere. It’s been a long three years stuck here, while the pages of the calendar were seemingly torn off by gale winds one right after the other. How is it that something that seems so long can also seem to have feet that are fleet-of-foot? I’m not sure I really want to leave New England while not sure I want to stay. Confounding, it is. – Thanks for this post and the photograph! – Wishing you a wonderful 2023 full of good health, peace and clear, cold ponds.

    1. Sasquatch could be a male, I suppose. Truth is, pretty sure there’s a breeding pair up on Wheelock, hard to say which one is breaking all the trees.

  5. Once in a while I get nervous there won’t be any new sounds, surely they’ve all been made, we’ve heard them all? But it never fails that we are are born into new music again and again. It always feels like such a surprise! It’s one of my three favorite things about being alive that I can think of at the moment. 😉 Been listening to Zach for only a few months now… loving the sounds and the words. That’s a pretty tune!

    A really nice post, Ben. Happy New Year to your family!

  6. I wonder what the 3rd favorite place on Earth is? Thanks for this little nook (dorky word) of contained peace you bring, with your writing. It’s a place I’ve relied on for solace, for many years:)

  7. We had sub-zero temperatures on our mountain which is a bit unusual for us. We are at about 3200 elevation but it is still NC. My pond moment was seeing the cats joyfully zigging and zagging across its frozen surface. One of those moments I hope I will not fail to appreciate. Beautiful words, as always. Best wishes to all the Hewitts in 2023!

  8. There’s a blessing to not continuously thinking, “this could be the last time….”. Always amazing how long the days of parenting are, and how ludicrous-speed the years are in hindsight.

  9. Hi Ben. I’ve been a fly on the wall, silently reading your posts for the last couple years (and books much longer). I thought I’d come out of the shadows briefly to share my appreciation for your writing. It’s calming, down-to-earth sentiments prompt much-needed reshuffling of my priorities. Like a good look in the mirror, your posts often make me want to pump the brakes, uhnunch my shoulders, and look around. I’ve never been to your area, but like Abbey’s southwest or Muir’s Sierras, your posts make me wish I was there too – biking, skiing, or just…standing. Thank you.

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