Friday Firesmith – The Pond of Grief and Light

The hardest part about getting the kayak into the pond beside the house is talking the dogs into staying put, and silent. Clearly, something is going on in the yard, I’m in the yard, so the dogs ought to be involved. Not this Sunday morning, dear mutts, no. 

The sun hasn’t broken the horizon as I slip into the red-black water of the pond. This is one of the few years the water is deep enough to use even a kayak here. But rain, more rain, and one hurricane flooded the compost complex and filled the pond. 

I paddle towards the brightest spot above the trees, and glide to a stop. The world is silent. 

The wind eases me to one side, slowly, almost imperceptible, and the air is cold. I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt but no coat, for water is dangerous if it’s over your head. I know what to do if the kayak rolls, and I know to leave this thing and get out of the water if it comes to that. It won’t, I know, this glass- still pond, shallow and safe, but I always have a plan. 

The world awakens slowly. Crows pass overhead, cawing and winging their way northward, where and why I do not know. A woodpecker hammers away, and a Kingfisher scolds me for the interruption. A friend of mine is in the hospital with heart trouble. A friend of hers died in a car wreck, and the shock nearly killed her. Grief.  You feel it as a child when a pet dies, or worse, a grandparent, and after that, life serves up grief on an irregular basis. 

The sun rises slowly, the shadows being pushed away now, and the sky brightens. The day begins east of here, and as I use the paddle to gently thwart the breeze, some photos appear and ask to be captured. 

A sunset over a body of water

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Photography, someone once told me, is nothing at all but how you experience the light. I feel it this morning, the blast of the sunrise appearing in the darkness of the woods, and the sky. My friend will be okay, at least in the way that she will keep living, keep doing the things she does, only wounded, again, as we all are. Living, I think, is nothing but how you experience loss. 

Trees reach skyward, their shadows and the sun’s light creating contrast that desires nothing but the lens. I breathe in the cold, still shadowed, my fingers numb, my feet damp and hurting, but life, and beauty is found here. This place, in the middle of the pond, with the red maples, the live oaks, and the tall pines, all bear witness to the act of a heartbeat, seeking, reaching, desperate to find any meager salve to apply to a soul that aches. Being on the water and art is such a salve. 

The sun rears over the horizon, a shaft of pure light races across the pond, too bright to be captured, too much for the human eye, but a benison for the heart. I paddle back slowly, slowly, allowing the glide to degrade before pushing again. The contrast between night and day can be found at dawn. The contrast between life and death is found in grief, and the darker the pain, the brighter the life, the greater the loss, the deeper the love. In this, all of this, life is beautiful. 

Greif never kills love but shows it in a light only one heart can truly see.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

11 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Pond of Grief and Light”

  1. The dawn envelops you with serenity, confident of a clean slate beginning. Alas, after breakfast the deception is exposed revealing a day saturated with people and cats.

  2. Well-written, Mike.

    My condolences for your friend; I am sorry for her loss. And with the heart trouble, she may have to make some diet and lifestyle changes which won’t be easy–especially while mourning. But I hope she pulls through.

    • Tim, oddly enough she is one of the healthiest people I have ever known, up until this point It’s trauma, pure and simple. The idea of loving anyone that much is becoming alien in our culture, and it’s a sign we need to change, not those who do.

  3. Mike, a sign of health is not always a good sign. I knew a guy who was pretty healthy and loved to run. On his last run, he ran up the stairs to his parent-in-law that they were visiting, collapsed and died.

    But to your point, the loss of a loved one can also lead to severe health issues. And yes, we need that kind of true love more in this culture and our world.

    • Richard, all the time. A couple have gotten caught under the gate trying to sneak into the backyard. Fortunately, they were small and no one was hurt. a good half dozen are sunning on the banks of the pond even as we speak. The will be the first summer with a much water as is in the back right now, if it doesn’t go down before the weather warms up. It’s going to be interesting. The dynamics between wildlife who live in the water and dogs who live on the property are going to be worth writing about, I just hope I don’t lose a dog.


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