John J. Dunphy
A recent magazine article described such a body of water as a "vernal pool." As a child, however, I called the one near my home simply "the pond."
Like that vernal pool, the pond's existence was strictly temporal. It began to form in a small valley after the melting of winter's last snow and grew steadily with spring's rains.
The pond served as the rendezvous point of choice for frogs awakened from their winter hibernation. Their croaking was a melody of enchantment for a lonely, frightened child in his bedroom at night.
almost drown out
my arguing parents downstairs
I remember kneeling entraced at the pond's edge.
swim across my face
reflected in the pond
The pond was a crucible of life--and death.
the tadpole pond
Turtles feasted on the hapless tadpoles, but the frogs had predator problems of their own.
child's finger traces
My first microscope introduced me to the less obvious wildlife nurtured by the pond.
first paramecium sighted
one minute later
child's mouth still agape
The realization that each drop of pond water was a populated mini-universe was an intellectual epiphany for a nine year old. I also received some rudimentary sex education not offered at parochial school.
two paramecia conjugate
a Catholic schoolboy
The pond's mass quickly shrank through May as the rains abated. Well before the month's conclusion, the valley was usually a quagmire--and a favorite playground for neighborhood children.
muddy small shoes
drying in the sun
Summer saw the valley transformed into a weedy meadow that held no trace of water. But I knew that, come late February, the pond would return with all its magic and wonder.
winter's last snowman
into the pond