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Schubart: Ponds vs Pools

I’ve swum in ponds and pools. And I prefer ponds. I know ponds have yucky bottoms and slippery reptiles but the pools I’ve swum in are usually a witch’s brew of shock chemicals designed to blind the eyes, burn the skin, and destroy the biome that thrives in natural waterways.

My distrust of pools increased when, as a first grader, I first swam in our neighbor’s new pool. No one warned me about the chemical alarm Jack’s father had added and my friends all laughed and pointed when a trail of inky black fluid appeared around my trunks. I ran home in tears. The next time I came, there was a large hand-painted sign that read: “We don’t swim in your toilet, please don’t pee in our pool.” But I’d already learned my lesson.

Years later, I took particular satisfaction when Jack, annoyed with his father for not allowing him to have a teen pool-party, released several unwrapped chocolate peanut bars into the pool that floated ominously around with no indication of who dunnit.
Today, we share a half-acre pond with two painted turtles, a shoreline of baritone bullfrogs and soprano peepers who natter at each another all night long. In full summer, we share the water surface with a variety of pond-skimmers, dragon and damsel flies, and stick bugs. Above us, swallows and martins swoop and dive for insects and, on evening dips, we’re seeing a resurgent population of small brown bats.

Visitors often ask about snapping turtles, water snakes, or leeches and I can tell them with confidence there are none…that I know of. To ensure against leeches, we stocked the pond with trout. This soon led to a daily visit from a great blue heron, which we never saw without a fingerling trout flapping in its pointy bill.

Frankly, the pond is a joy. The water is cool and clear and its natural beauty has only been enhanced by our neighbor’s pink plastic flamingo, that every spring attracts the adamant sexual attentions of a wild tom turkey, totally clueless that it’s wooing a lawn ornament.

After several hours in the woods with two gnarly chain saws, and a forty-year-old John Deere tractor cutting firewood and attracting deer ticks, I strip down, dive in, and allow myself to just absorb the beauty around me.

As for the yucky bottom, well, I’ve been a parent several times over now, so that doesn’t bother me!

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.
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