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A pond is not just a pond, even if the cattle don’t keep its bottom packed tightly enough to hold water, even if brush fills its boundaries until nobody knows it was ever even there, nobody but you. It lives on, just as we all hope to do, in the memories of those who knew it best.
A pond became more than just a watering hole when our son, then 7 years old, looked up at my father, who had just hooked another worm on the bamboo pole, and said, “I can see all the world in Grandfather’s pond.” Dad and I looked at one another with a deep understanding that the reflection in the water had become far more than land and sky, that this place had become far more than just a pond.
Different than all other bodies of water, a pond holds a magic that is hard to describe. Unlike a river, it’s not going anywhere; unlike an ocean, it’s not deep enough for exotic marine life; and unlike a creek, it does not meander over stones or pick up the pace in spring. And while it doesn’t offer the same vitality of crashing waves to shore, it quietly works on our spirits if we let it.
Ponds are inherently quiet, but those of us who noisily race from one project or errand to the next could think of quiet places as productive in a wily kind of way. Like quiet people, they have a lot to say if we will hush long enough to listen. In the classroom, I try to empower my shy students so they can gradually gain confidence, so they can believe that commanding a room is not the only way to earn respect.
A pond is like that. It does not need to brag about being a miracle that the earth will hold water there without artifice or effort. Its edges are imperfect, plain even, with rocks sometimes and a stray piece of driftwood maybe. But a pond humbly embodies what life is all about as it swells and flourishes and then fights to survive harsh realities beyond its control.
I have seen a pond dry up and crackle into jagged fissures, a reptilian surface that shows the cruelty of a summer drought, and then the rains come to bring it back to life. Kind of like people, wouldn’t you say? We sometimes crack under the pressure of life — dry up and harden a little — but then moisture can come to nourish us back to life in the form of a kind remark from friend or stranger, from the renewal of love or faith or maybe from a reminder of simple things that matter, like ponds.
I have seen cattle stand stubbornly in the middle of a pond, shrewdly avoiding our efforts to round them up and proving that they really are more intelligent than we think. I have seen turtles float with heads bobbing barely above the surface, skillfully waiting for us to leave.
And so it is a microcosm just large enough to work, but just small enough to mean something. A pond is not just a pond when you look at it that way.
Jan Patterson Selvitelle is a teacher for the Department of Defense at Ft. Knox and can be reached with reader comments at email@example.com.