Summer in Connecticut is like a great wild beast, breathing and humming with life. The overgrown plants glow green, and the air is thick, hot, and sticky, frizzing my hair and sending beads of sweat rolling down my neck. To take refuge from the heat, my sister and I would swim, jump, and squish around in the mud of the big brown pond in our backyard. It was there that I learned the hurried run of the muskrat, the wide blue-grey wings of the heron, and the V shapes of geese flying across the sky. I learned the language of the water, wind, and thick mud.
Every summer night I went to sleep serenaded by the deep-throated songs of bull-frogs, and I woke to see silver mist rising off the surface of the water. As the days rolled into October, the beast of summer closed its eyes to rest. The leaves burst into yellow, orange, and red and dropped from the trees, who stood like skeletons against the cold wind. The days became shorter and darker, and the pond froze solid and still.
I skated early in the morning. The cold air stung my face and clouded my breath. I stopped occasionally and bent over to look closely at the frozen pond as if it were an art museum exhibit. The glassy layers of ice trapped millions of tiny air bubbles, leaves, algae, and once, an orange fish. It was about the size of my palm and lay motionless on its side. The sun glinted off its coppery scales, which shone like newly minted pennies. It was breathtakingly beautiful, yet the sight of its still body filled me with sadness.
The ice hardly ever freezes over now, and the winters grow warmer as the summer beast becomes stronger and hungrier. I doubt my children or their children will ever have the chance to skate on this pond. By then, the ice will only be a memory.