Years ago in the late summertime, while the trees were signaling their fiery warnings of approaching winter and the lingering calm away from school had dulled to a dreary relaxation, my friend and I took it upon ourselves to build an ornamental pond in his backyard. Given the philosophical choice, though unbeknownst to us at the time, we quickly abandoned thoughts of a constructionist nature wherein we would begin by building the structures surrounding the pond, and instead found great delight for no less than a week in digging a gaping hole into the landscape behind his house perhaps fifty yards away. In our ignorant way of confusing construction and destruction, we set to work with vigor, tearing up roots and rocks, dirt and soul. Perhaps we were lucky that it didn’t rain and make our jobs more difficult.
A week and change later, we stared into our hole dug with only as much enthusiasm as we could muster in the short sessions devoted before trekking into the woods on trips of discovery. For a moment as we stared we thought the dangerous thoughts of those who have learned the doomed lesson of giving up. We contemplated how easily we could stretch our legs and busy ourselves with something more charming, such as pushing down dead trees or throwing rocks.
We eventually completed the pond, which included a pump and bacterial filter system run through a six tier waterfall that fed into the thousand gallon reservoir littered with koi and goldfish. We learned to line the pond, affixed a charming rock garden around it, complete with japanese hanging lanterns and a stone bench. By the winter, the pond was a beautiful addition to the house.
I can still recall our surprise in winter as the pond first froze over. we punctured small holes in the ice, worried about the fate of the fish. days later, our small holes had blossomed into ice funnels standing as high as six inches off the surface. that was sign enough for us that everything would be fine again by spring.
The fish survived. The pond still stands, but it has lost some magic over the years. I can still see it if I visit, but that sense of creation, of destruction, of love… has faded, like a shadow, like a forgotten bruise.
My girlfriend and I snuck out in the middle of winter, deep in the freeze, to trudge through the snow and find an old bridge she knew. To call it cold was to call that ghostly orb taunting us from low above the trees a pretty moon. There was something treacherous in the air. Had I been a more instinctual animal, it would have been a good night to stay low in my hovel and bide my time for fairer weather. These choices are not our own when girlfriends find their way to romantic ideas.
We stood on the bridge overlooking the solid lake. She mentioned that she used to ice skate and I let the memory pass right through me, giving it no place to rest in my mind. Her breath was solid and I could smell the coffee stained upon it. Her wool coat scraped against my skin as her familiar hair crept its way into the corner of my mouth choking me. I was frozen, sickly, and drowning in morbid thoughts of the night. I was in love.
We made love briefly on the snowy bridge. It was unpleasant but thankfully short-lived. She would call it romantic and smile at me, but I knew she felt the night as well. Had something between us changed?
Sometime during the walk back I noticed a bruise on her neck. I thought that it was my doing and I held my tongue. Perhaps I was scared to let her know I had hurt her, perhaps I feared the night’s warnings. I wouldn’t find out for almost a decade from where the bruise had really come. By that time, our spring had come and with it, new life and new loves.