Ponderous thoughts

So fellow travelers, as most folks know we’ve had one hell of a winter here in upstate New York.  In fact, our local news station’s weather team recently posted a report that January through March is now noted as the coldest first quarter start to a year on record.

You go Old Man Winter. Yay you.

Yes indeed there are still several very ugly looking grey spattered snow piles scattered about my yard.  My favorite walking trails are still frozen over. Until a few days ago there was a substantial layer of ice on the surface of my little pond.  Complete with two frozen tell tale fish shaped swatches of orange embedded deep in the ice.  Dammit.

Just three weeks ago, while I was out of town my husband sent me an excited text “You have survivors!” along with this phone shot:


Those are several good sized fish swimming below, not frozen in the ice…..What the heck happened since then?

What happened was high winds. followed by a deep freeze, after the short lived ever so slightly above freezing warm days resulted in this:



That is my pond “percolator”,  the air exchanger which circulates life sustaining oxygen into the water below the frozen surface.  It should look like this:

pond perc snowcave edit

Frozen in place but upright, as it had been a few weeks before my husband’s phone shot.

It’s current position, tipped over and frozen in place means the lower section had separated from the top “percolator” thus cutting off the circulation of oxygenated water to the fish below.

Not Good.

So as the snow receded from the surface of the pond this week, it came as no surprise to find a few frozen fishcicles embedded in the ice.  Every spring I find a couple of “floaters” as the ice melts and open water returns. They are quickly removed, as soon as they can be scooped out with the pond net, as I have seen (and smelled) the ugly aftermath of anything not promptly cleared away getting trapped in the pond filter.  The filter isn’t running yet and wont be until the water temperature of the deepest section hits a consistent 50° or above which will probably take a few weeks of ice free nights and warmer days.  Still, not wanting to take any chances, I have been poking at the ice on the pond everyday with the blunt end of the net pole to see if I can break through.

So the morning I saw the ice had broken into floating chunks resembling ice flow, I grabbed a snow shovel (we don’t put those away until Memorial Day) and prodded at the ice puzzle to gain access to the chunks decorated with orange ovals.  Now that the surface was completely snow free, it looked like the kill total was up to three. Careful maneuvering and some skillful scooping techniques freed the three sad chunks for the compost piles.  No, they wont stink up the yard,  the crows will nab them before that.

By late afternoon, there was one small ice flow left spinning thoughtfully around the center of the pond.  The open water revealed a lot of organic debris along the shallows where I will set potted water plants as soon as the last frost date has come and gone.  I began scooping up the skeletal remains of various leaves and in so doing caught glimpses of two more orange and white corpses. Sigh.  Even more discouraging, was the lack of any sign of surviving fish, maybe because I was careful to avoid stirring up the deeper center of the pond where the water is well below the freeze line.  Then again, so many farmers talked of how much deeper that freeze line had run this terrible long winter.  Again Not Good.

However this morning, as a quick rain shower created gentle circles on the now ice free surface,  I caught glimpse of a flash of orange.  The fish always dive down when I stand at the ponds edge, so I waited and sure enough first one…


then another


and another…. wait…there! a flash of grey next to it…..


and best of all the unmistakable long wisp of our only all white resident a graceful fantail that not so long ago was just a little fry, the one my daughter named Ghost…..


I carefully counted these symbols of the resilience of life. They spoke of hope justified, bringing perhaps a message to keep the faith no matter how long, dark and cold a passage on the journey may seem.

Final tally so far:  Old Man Winter 5   Survivor Fish 8  and counting…..

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

Deborah H Rahalski


    1. Yes indeed we have had new fry every summer since the pond’s second season. Tadpoles too. The frogs and fish work out their own balance of who survives we just let nature run its course.

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