Clear bottom

When I saw yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Surfaces, I immediately thought of water. On Thursday night in my “Rivers & Literary Imagination” class, we discussed the way water works metaphorically in Henry David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers. Thoreau is fascinated with the tension between a river’s surface and its depths, and he is obsessed with the way water is both transparent and reflective. In all his works, Thoreau shows a penchant for puns, and A Week is no different: when Thoreau uses words such as “reflection” and “depth,” he implies these words’ figurative as well as literal meanings, and he repeatedly puns on the word “current,” referring both to the flow of a river and the Present Moment in the flow of time.

Fluid or frozen?

Time can’t be frozen, but water can, and the Current of Time can be freeze-framed through a camera’s transparent lens. I shot the photo at the top of today’s post in August of 2007, while walking (and wading with) Reggie at Goose Pond in Keene, and the rest of today’s images come from December of 2006, when my fascination with the surface tension, reflections, and textures of freezing water influenced several blog posts. I can’t fish December, 2006 or August, 2007 from the depths of time, but I can rely upon these photos and blog posts to remind me of what was Current then. The images I sketched resonate with what was going on in my life at the time, and they provide a surface through with I can see, via the eye of memory, the depths which lay beneath.


In December of 2006, I’d just stuck a tentative toe into the waters of online dating, and I was left cold by its superficiality. The image of a religious icon might serve as a window into a deeper, more spiritual realm, but when your own self is reduced to a clickable thumbnail displayed alongside other lonely-hearts, it’s hard to believe anyone will see through the skin-thin veil of appearance to perceive the depths of personality lurking below.


I first clicked on J in January, 2007, and what attracted my scanning eye wasn’t his photo but the wry humor of his profile itself: in a sea of online romantics all claiming to enjoy sunset walks along the beach, J’s profile was the only one that made me laugh by making fun of the absurdity of so many people all trying to stand out by sounding exactly the same. When I emailed J to tell him I was grateful for a spot of humor to enliven an otherwise demoralizing activity, I wasn’t intending to flirt; having already given up hope that online dating could ever work for me, all I wanted was to share a laugh with another drowning soul.


That first email was a great way, I realize now, of breaking the ice: instead of starting with the usual online pick-up lines and virtual winks, J’s and my relationship began with a shared laugh. Ultimately–countless emails and three years of laughter later–it didn’t much matter what either of us looked like in our clickable profile-pictures: what made our relationship click was a quirky sense of humor that continues to the present. J made me laugh when I first met him in January, 2007, and he still makes me laugh now. Under the surface of a frigid February, I can look through the water of time to see a pattern that is still current.

This is my contribution to yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Surfaces. You can click here to see my photo-set of “Frozen reflections,” shot at Goose Pond in December, 2006.

Fluid or frozen?

It seems I’ve been thinking about upside-down tree reflections ever since Leslee blogged one recently. Or maybe I still have this picture of Waban’s festive holiday tree reflected in snow-melt still in mind. Or maybe I can blame the “Search” box at the bottom of my blog side-bar, for when I typed in “surreal,” this post was at the top of the search results.

Giving up the snow-ghost

Whatever the reason, the above picture of pine trees reflected in the half-frozen surface of Goose Pond in December, 2006 is what I’m posting for today’s Photo Friday theme, Surreal. It’s always odd to see an inverse version of ordinary objects, a simple pond or puddle de-familiarizing the same old sights. In December of 2006, Goose Pond was on the edge of a several-month deep freeze; now in March of 2008, New England is coming out of all that. Yesterday in Keene, a noontime walk revealed the family of snow-folk I’d blogged last week is now giving up the snow-ghost. Eaves were dripping snow-melt, and sidewalks that had never been shoveled were topped with a slushy soup of thawing ice and hard-packed snow.

Keene got snow

The fact that last week’s snow is quickly melting is in no way surreal: snow falls and subsequently melts every year in New England. What’s surreal is the climatic (and often climactic) contrast I’ve experienced in my weekly “commute” between Keene and Newton. Yesterday in Keene the weather was mild and sunny, joggers ran in shorts, sidewalks were often impassable with slippery slush and shoe-topping puddles of snow-melt, and several feet of snow remained in yards and other shaded, un-shoveled spots. Today in Newton, there’s virtually no snow anywhere: the last of it melted yesterday, revealing grass, last year’s remaining leaves, and mud, mud, mud. Simply by driving the 80-some miles from southwest New Hampshire to the suburbs of Boston, it seems I’ve entered an entirely different climate, one where I can wear shoes rather than boots and can stroll down a sidewalk without watching my slippery step.

This time of year in Keene, you see, you don’t have to head to Goose Pond to take in the surreal sight of something reflected upside down in water. All you have to do is look at the sidewalk in front of you when you try to ford your way across Main Street.

Flooded sidewalk


I’m still oddly fascinated with images of the thin skin of ice that’s been forming on Goose Pond, the crystal interstices between solid and liquid mesmerizing me with their jagged and jutting lines. How is it, I wonder, that something fluid and flowing suddenly, upon reaching a certain magical temperature, transforms into something entirely different, the brittle fragility of ice belying water’s amorphous liquidity?


The crystal patterns of freezing water look like scarring skin, and the thin solid film on Goose Pond is a skin, a delicate membrane containing the parameters of something vast, murky, and deep. Never having sounded Goose Pond, I don’t know precisely how deep it is, but having swum there, I know the point at which its bottom drops from beneath my treading toes and the temperature of its water suddenly goes from sun-warmed to bone-chillingly cold. Like a mute creature, Goose Pond keeps its innards hidden; now in winter it grows a hide that is streaked with striations, long crystal lines knitting a tough integument against intrusion.


We humans are also vast, deep, and murky creatures, our infinite psyches being mostly unplumbed and our daily interactions merely skating the surface of consciousness. How much deeper than any pond do our spirits surge? At what point do our psychic depths drop beneath our treading toes, chilling us with the unfathomable?


Today on New Year’s Eve, we skate another sort of interstice, the intricate edge of Now and Then. We say a leopard can’t change its spots, but our penchant for New Year’s resolutions suggests we see ourselves as aquatic, able to morph from liquid to solid then perhaps even to pure air: sublime.


On the surface, both consciousness and time are textured, alluring onlookers with the illusory promise of solidity. Do you dare skate the membraneous film between Now and Then, and do you dare pierce the surface to plumb your own hidden depths?


Happy New Year to one and all!

Frozen reflections

It seems I’m still fascinated by the sight of inverted trees reflected in ice-skimmed water. Now that I’m not under the grading gun, I can take Reggie for a leisurely weekday morning walk at Goose Pond, a time when we literally have the place to ourselves. Although both water and ice are interesting in their own right, what’s been catching my eye lately is the jagged edge between liquid and solid, each with its own reflective and refractive properties. What a wondrous kind of magic there is in our everyday midst that stitches liquid into solid one branching crystal at a time.