I have to think hard about what the constituents are for a pond. Even though I spent hours with my childhood friend, watching her submerge her bare skinny arm up to her armpit in pond water, ponds were never my thing and I always thought it miraculous that her skinny white arms would come out of the dark murky water whole. I always imagined her losing one of her limbs to the imagined creatures that lurked underneath, she always made that sacrifice happily. She was happiest at the edge of a pond, spotting minnows and goldfish and toads and spawn. She would sort the various inhabitants out and have separate mini ponds. Sub sets. In an attempt to stop the pond life eating eachother.
Washing up bowls full of tadpoles at various levels of development, like separate junior school classrooms. She used to spend hours hunting the newt that ate them, (there were always millions of toads at the pond), and she cared for every single one of them. Each tadpole counted.
Moreover, every tadpole mattered.
The newt was public enemy number one. I loathed it and feared it, imagining a creature as big as the Lambton Worm. I caught a glimpse one day in her back garden. She was screeching, newt, newt, get it, get it. I remember freezing to the spot. It wasn’t as big as the Lambton worm but my god it was uglier.
It wasn’t just the amphibians that creeped me out, it was all that black sludge and green algae stuff that she managed to dredge from the fathomless pond. Or a dead toad and she’d say, I wondered what happened to that one. I would stare in awe and wonder. How did she know? She could tell them apart, like kids in a classroom. Tad pole school had paid off.
She loved it. It was one of the first after school activities. A skinny arm dunk into the unknown waters of the back garden pond. Not in your school uniform shirt, her mother would shout. Too late.
What is in a pond. An ecosystem. A mini cycle of life and death. Photosynthesis. Recycling of plant and animal matter.
Recently I realised there is a lily pond inside of me where I sunk all those weighty disappointments, I sunk them in a lily pond. Not just any old lily pond. A lily pond where impressionist artists would sit by and paint and capture moments.
They were black and fecund and crumbling like soil when I chucked them in and there were no lilies. Only darkness. A dark and savage underworld. Rotting like the corpse of a toad. Head of goldfish. Tail of newt.
I could name them, list them, an inventory marked by reeds. Despite rotting and squaloring in the stagnating stinking sun filled land pause, they did not disappear. Ponds are where the land pauses, where the teritory changes, where the elemental water nymphs dive and play and work. This is where the matter is composted and composted again and again, sludge to food to, food to faeces, faeces to sludge, ad infinitum.
I wasn’t to know. Pond life was a dark and perilous place, where I threw all the disappointments so I would never have to see them again.
And now all I can see are green lily pads creating stepping stones over the silky surface and water lilies adorning the view.
An orchestra of water lilies rising up out of the disappointments and they unfurl and float up from the depths. Tuneful, harmonious and they breathe for the first time in eons, they breathe.