Ponderings June 2021
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
PONDERINGS Volume 26 By and For the Friends of White Pond June 2021 The spring of 2021 is off to a much happier start than the spring of 2020. Despite the April snow storm and the early midges, we are coming out of hibernation ready to enjoy White Pond. The virus that overwhelmed the Town in 2020 is on the wane, and consequently many of the Pond community’s hardships that weighed us down last summer have lifted. We thank the White Pond Advisory Committee (WPAC), President Pam Reed, Board, and members of the Dover Property Owners Association (DPOA), the Concord Police, and Delia Kaye from the Division of Natural Resources (DNR), for their stewardship of the Pond. The White Pond Advisory Committee’s Vision for White Pond, Revisited: Carmen Jaquier, Chair, 2016 – 2021 and Jerry Frenkil, Chair, 2014-2016 Six years ago, the White Pond Advisory Committee produced a report for the town, A Shared Future: A Comprehensive Vision for White Pond, Its Watershed, and Its Neighborhoods. Intended to address the myriad intertwined issues facing the White Pond community, it was well received by the Concord Select Board as well as the whole community. In addition to describing in detail the major Pond and neighborhood concerns, it also laid out a vision for how to manage White Pond’s waters, watershed, and people. At the time the Vision was motivated by 2 key issues – the deterioration of White Pond’s water quality and increasing numbers of visitors and the related unmanaged usage of the Pond and its environs. Now six years on, Town Manager Stephen Crane has requested that the Vision be updated to bring the Vision up to date with current conditions. In our opinion, that request is both warranted and timely as many changes have occurred since that last report. Most significantly, the White Pond Association, long-time owner and manager of the beach area, graciously donated their property to the
Town of Concord. While such a momentous gift was not exactly anticipated by the 2015 Vision, a partnership between the town and WPA was suggested to provide managed public access to the Pond. This was considered to be a key element in balancing the competing demands for providing fair and equitable access as well as improving water quality. In addition to the WPA’s donation, other significant progress has been made toward the 2015 Vision, particularly in addressing shoreline erosion and public access. Still, other major issues such as enforcement of access restrictions around Sachem’s Cove and long-term water quality monitoring have received insufficient attention. Additionally, White Pond has experienced multiple algal blooms in recent years rendering the water unhealthy for swimming and recreation, at times for lengthy periods, thereby depriving all Concord residents of enjoying White Pond. Most significantly, now that the former WPA property is now owned by the Town a management plan is needed that explicitly integrates water quality monitoring and restoration with public access while maintaining the rustic environment that Concord residents have enjoyed for generations. Updating the Vision will be a major effort by the WPAC this year and will require, as it did before, consideration of many complex interconnected issues. We encourage readers to voice their concerns and suggestions to the WPAC to help ensure that the Vision Revision is wholistic, carefully considered, and presents a clear and unambiguous message to Town leaders as to what the White Pond community feels is needed for the Pond’s long-term health and availability for generations to come. White Pond Beach Park Update Kate Blair At a recent virtual WPAC meeting, Deputy Town Manager Kate Hodges and representatives from the design firm Weston and Sampson, as well as DNR staff person Delia Kaye, discussed the latest plans for the White Pond Beach Park. Members of the WPAC raised concerns about an increase in impervious surfaces on the ADA compliant switch back trail, a proposed play area, and decks at the beach and in the area above at the site of the old restrooms, potentially leading to more runoff and erosion, adversely affecting the Pond’s water quality. Architect and abutter Marya Piesecki offered alternatives. Resident Jim Ricker spoke about
safety concerns in the proposed play area. Other abutters voiced concerns about lack of 24-hour oversight at what could become an attractive nuisance. WPAC chair Carmen Jaquier and Friends of White Pond (FoWP) President Kate Blair voiced their hopes to Delia that the Town would take over some of the water quality testing and volunteered to meet to discuss the issue. This will become even more important if the beach continues to be unmanaged off-season, as it has been this spring. All citizens at the meeting reiterated their hopes that the plans reflect a commitment to protect the water quality of White Pond. Sachem’s Cove Update Kate Blair At a recent virtual WPAC meeting, Concord Police Safety Officer Ron Holsinger stated that the Ranger Program is slated to return to Sachem’s Cove this summer. Rules and regulations for social distancing, swimming, fires, gatherings, and dogs will once again be enforced, protecting the DNR’s much appreciated new erosion control mitigations and therefore the Pond’s water quality. Pam Reed of DPOA presented a document to WPAC and the Select Board detailing concerns about speeding on Dover Street and parking issues on the side streets, and Officer Holsinger discussed installing electric speed signs on Dover Street and enforcement of the existing No Parking signs. Although there are no speed limit signs posted on the side streets, he recommended 15 mph. Although there is no speed limit sign on Plainfield Road, there is a yellow “suggested limit” sign of 25 mph. He encouraged the neighborhood to call the police if there are any speeding or other issues. Pam’s document, as well as a helpful list of website resources, is posted on the Dover Street Google Group website. Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Update Kate Blair At a recent virtual Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Advisory Committee (BFRT) meeting, the members reiterated their support of extensive metal fencing along the trail bordering the Pond to discourage bikers from leaving the trail and eroding the
hill to illegally swim in Sachem’s Cove. FoWP President Kate Blair, WPAC members, and DPOA President Pam Reed volunteered to write letters of support for the fencing. The letters were received and posted on the BFRT website. Although the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will continue to be built to the Sudbury line, and the fencing issue has not yet been decided, and bicyclists will still scramble down the hill to the Cove to try to swim, Rangers and police will enforce the trail and conservation land rules. More information from Land Planner Marcia Rasmussen about future fencing was posted on the BFRT Advisory Committee webpage: The last 1⁄2 mile of Phase 2C: After the April 22nd BFRT Advisory Committee meeting, I requested further revisions to the 75% design plans for this phase of the project regarding the wrought iron fence and a timber rail fence on the easterly side (White Pond side) of the trail. These plans have been posted to the BFRTAC webpage and are ready to be sent to the Sudbury design consultant. The revised 75% design plans are now expected to be submitted by Sudbury to MassDOT in mid-May 2021. We will have to wait for confirmation that MassDOT approves the fencing plans. Until then, we are grateful that the Ranger Program has been reinstated. Watershed News Jane Prentiss A GIS map of White Pond was developed for use on your phone or iPad. It includes both a grid and a bathymetry overlay. The idea was developed for water testing as well as fire department rescue and recovery. Go to https://concordma.maps.arcgis.com turn on location services on your phone and you can see your position within the grid and the depth at your location. It can also be used for Walden Pond. Many thanks to a volunteer group who cleaned the litter and abandoned property on 58 acres of public land in the White Pond Community this Spring. https://concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/20353/Native-Plant-Brochure-Final
Inland shoreline property value has increased tremendously recently. You can protect your real estate investment while protecting the Pond as they are directly connected. Maintenance can feel like a Catch 22 particularly on the slopes as work within 100 feet may fall into wetlands protection laws. A few things you can do to prevent soil erosion: You can plant native plants by right. See this link to a brochure put together by the Natural Resources dept. . https://concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/20353/Native-Plant-Brochure- Final The wind can cause as much soil erosion as water run-off. Keep your soil covered: Native plantings, not lawn seed, is one way to secure your soil from silting into the Pond. Soil erosion is caused when the top crust of soil breaks through, allowing the glacial sand below to move freely into the Pond. Other points to remember: Securing your property is helpful, as loose construction material and objects are detrimental and difficult to clean up. Lastly, not using fertilizers, oils, solvents, and detergents will help to keep the water safe and protect your real estate investment at the same time. Testing, Testing, 1 2 3 Kate Blair Temperature, dissolved oxygen, and clarity tests are on hold due to inclement weather. We hope to collect data over the first weekend of June. On board the little white boat and a nimble kayak will be our stalwart Friends, Phoebe Clarkson, Suzanne Langridge, Joe Rogers, David Bearg, and Kate Blair, ably assisted by Carmen Jaquier. Going forward, Suzanne and Phoebe will be the lead researchers. We are very grateful for their service.
Wildlife Around White Pond, by Suzanne Langridge The seasons at White Pond are magical, each month bringing new things to see and hear on the water, in the sky, running or hopping through the leaves in the trees. While each month brings something new, the turning of the season also marks the consistent cycles of life, as the leaves change color, fall to the ground, and re-emerge in the spring, bringing with them the return of familiar wildlife. During a pandemic year, for me, watching the bald eagle fly over the pond searching for a fish, or noticing the common mergansers on the pond for the first time, provided an expansiveness needed through all of the restrictions and social distancing, there was no distancing needed from the eagle (although the bald eagle never got close enough for it to be a concern). The natural world also provided grounding in the consistency of the natural world. As spring returned this year, with a glimmer of hope that the world would open up again, I felt a sense of hope watching a red-bellied nuthatch excavate a nest hole as I was sitting on the community beach and in observing the migrating warblers making their way through for yet another year. I am grateful to have this natural resource so close, a place for the human and wildlife to find joy, community, and home. To learn more about the wildlife that calls White Pond home at different times of the year, and to contribute your own sightings to this community science project, check out the White Pond Biodiversity Project on iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/white-pond-biodiversity-project). For information on iNaturalist and directions for how to sign up, see their home page: www.inaturalist.org.
Storm Water Management, A Brief History David Bearg, P.E. Back in March of 1990, Dr. William Walker and George Ploetz issued a report entitled, “WHITE POND WATER QUALITY DATA, 1989” that was prepared for the White Pond Advisory Committee and the Concord Board of Health. In this document, under “Recommended measures for further diagnosing and protecting pond water quality” it suggested a “design and implementation of measures to control surface runoff; specific problem areas identified in previous reports include the State boat ramp (the Public Access Roadway), Seymour Street drainage system, and Town Conservation area”. It also stated that surface runoff contributes nutrients, turbidity, and organic materials which can stimulate algal growth, reduce transparency, and increase rates of oxygen depletion from the Pond bottom waters. The consensus in 1990 was that controlling surface runoff from the paved Public Access Roadway would be an advisable starting point in protecting the Pond’s water quality. It was a drop in the Pond’s fragile bucket, as the problem with surface runoff from Town lands was still determined to be a problem in the May, 2015 ESS Report, “White Pond Watershed Management Plan” and continues to this day. But in 1990, with the goal of mitigating the runoff down the paved Public Access Road, a project plan was developed involving the White Pond Advisory Committee (WPAC), the Friends of White Pond (FoWP), and the White Pond Associates, Inc. Since I was chairman of WPAC at the time, I got to orchestrate this community effort and also became its de facto historian of this project. I was also charged with getting permission from the disparate entities with control of the lands involved. This was a little tricky as the former owner, Massachusetts’ Middlesex County, had dissolved much of its responsibility for this land, having donated it to the State. The Friends of White Pond took on the responsibility for project management and on March 15, 1991 issued a “Request for Proposals for these proposed improvements to the Public Access Roadway serving White Pond.”
The Board of Directors of the White Pond Associates, Inc. spearheaded the fund-raising needed if this project were to become a reality. As a result, a budget of $4,000 became available. While this amount of money was sufficient to cover the cost of materials, it was not sufficient to pay for the cost of the people and equipment to do the work. Fortunately, the Town Water Department, under the direction of Hal Storrs of the Department of Public Works, volunteered to provide the needed people and equipment. It is interesting to note that the magnitude of this runoff control project, as designed by Dr. Walker, consisted of a main system with a void space of 461 cubic feet and a bottom system of 182 cubic feet to total a surge collection volume of 643 cubic feet. The new storm water management system is reported to have a surge volume of 13,000 cubic feet, or 20 times larger. Shortly after it was completed, the remains of a hurricane deposited a lot of rain here in New England. As the rain ended, I checked out the system and noticed that it was just shy of filling up. So clearly, the initially created system was large enough. Unfortunately, however, it was not well maintained and after twenty years, it filled up with sediment and debris, rendering it less useful. A BRIEF HISTORY OF PERMIT PARKING ON THE PRIVATE WAYS AROUND WHITE POND Jim Ricker During the mid and latter parts of the 1970’s, White Pond was a well-known swimming destination for countless numbers of people from many area towns. This popularity, unfortunately, created a large number of problems in the surrounding neighborhoods and also in the Pond. As parking was uncontrolled, cars often lined both sides of the streets, inhibiting access for emergency vehicles and residents’ cars. The visitors would haul coolers of beer as they walked to Sachem’s Cove or used residents’ stairs to access the nearest beach. When leaving, many used the Cove, the beaches, and their parked cars for beer can disposal and for outdoor bathrooms.
The Town did very little to control the situation. Some officials were concerned about the legality of parking enforcement on Private Ways while others did not agree there was a problem requiring attention. For many of us, this was an extremely frustrating situation with no solution coming from the Town. Finally, we contacted the Town Manager asking to be placed on the Select Board’s meeting agenda. While he agreed to do so for a meeting several months in the future, he eventually saw the wisdom in scheduling us for the next meeting. We proposed that the Town consider creating a parking district around the pond for residents and their guests. As a model, we recommended a program similar to those implemented by many seashore towns. The Board thoughtfully heard our presentation with Member, Gordon Shaw, and Assistant Town Manager, Anita Teckle, agreeing to look into our concerns. Soon after the meeting, Gordon invited the Police Chief to walk through the Cove area on a warm Sunday afternoon. The Chief, a longtime skeptic, was quickly converted when a young man threw a beer can at him. (As a side note, we residents would walk the shoreline on a Monday morning filling two large trash bags with beer cans and then hauling them to Reynolds Aluminum in Framingham for about two dollars a bag.) Gordon and Anita finalized the parking plan and led the Town’s efforts in implementation. The steps consisted of Select Board approval, Town Meeting approval, the Attorney General’s approval, and the approval of 70% of the residents on each street. With only a few residents on some streets, one opponent could block the program for their street. Fortunately, enough residents on each street approved the program. The final step was the installation of the “Permit Parking Only” signs that required a liability waiver from residents where signs were being placed. Why the plan succeeded:
A citizen initiative was supported and implemented by Town officials;
Unwavering support from the residents;
Adoption of a program successfully implemented in other communities;
Immediate and ongoing enforcement by the Concord Police Department using a combination of ticketing and towing; and,
Adoption by the Town Clerk of an annual resident and guest permit plan.
Commented [Katy1]: Commented [Katy2]:
What’s in the Water? The Many Writers of the White Pond Community Here’s a list and links to their websites: Suzanne Koven: Letter to A Young Female Physician “Suzanne Koven’s Letter to a Young Female Physician is so wise, beautifully written, tender, and full of heart that it should be required reading for every person-young, female, physician, or otherwise. This is a transporting memoire, and an instructive one.” Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance Suzanne, Primary Care Physician and Writer in Residence at Massachusetts General Hospital, is also a resident of the Dover Street neighborhood. Her essays, articles, blogs, and reviews have appeared in The Boston Globe, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The New Yorker.com, Psychology Today, The L.A. Review of Books, The Virginia Quarterly, STAT, and other publications. Her monthly column “In Practice” appeared in the Boston Globe and won the Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Writing from the American Medical Writers Association in 2012. Her interview column, “The Big Idea,” appears at The Rumpus. Suzanne conducts workshops, moderates panel discussions, and speaks to a variety of audiences about literature and medicine, narrative and storytelling in medicine, women’s health, mental healthcare, and primary care. Please read more about her amazing career at http://suzannekoven.com/ Scott Anderson (pen names Liz Marvin and Frank Dorn): The Betty Crawford Mystery Series, and The Stetson Culp Action- Adventure Series. http://johnstonmediallc.com/ https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Liz+Marvin+Betty+Crawford+Mystery+serie s&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss
https://www.amazon.com/Vengeance-Taken-Stetson-Culp-Adventure- ebook/dp/B01KL6S35G/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=Frank+Dorn&qid=1622 227948&s=books&sr=1-6 Also, a chapter in Now Write! Screenwriting https://www.amazon.com/Now-Write-Screenwriting-Exercises- Teachers/dp/1585428515/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3H4TB2Y2QT9SR&dchild= 1&keywords=now+write+screenwriting&qid=1622227217&s=books&s prefix=Now+Write%3A+%2Caps%2C146&sr=1- 3&asin=1585428515&revisionId=&format=4&depth=1 Christine and Robert Gerzon: Human Earth Awakening If you're troubled by the world you see and are seeking personal growth, social change, ecological solutions and spiritual wisdom — then Human Earth Awakening was written for you. It's a mythic adventure where past, present and future collide, giving us one last chance to heal our planet. https://www.amazon.com/Human-Earth-Awakening-Story-World- ebook/dp/B08MBGKD5Q/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Robert+Gerzon& qid=1621945732&s=books&sr=1-1 Ravi Faiia: Tewodros the King: Ethiopia’s Triumph in the British Invasion of 1868 "Ethiopia has been a big part of my life and it has played a much bigger and greater part in the life of the world than many realize. Ravi Faiia's brilliant new novel Tewodros The King re-imagines the story, solidly based in historical fact, of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II and his extraordinary confrontation with the might of Victorian Britain at the peak of its imperial power. There could be only one winner in such an uneven conflict, but it is the Africans who are the real heroes of this gripping, fast-moving, cleverly-nuanced story of courage, conviction and hope in desperate times."
https://www.amazon.com/Tewodros-King-Ethiopias-triumph- invasion/dp/B0882PKNXM/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=tewodros+the+king &qid=1621945536&s=books&sr=1-1 Victoria Shippen, Poetry: On the Way Home https://canarylitmag.org/archive_by_author.php?id=446 David Bearg: Indoor Air Quality and HVAC Systems. 1993 This book discusses, among other things, the relationship between the design and operation of the HVAC system and the achievement, or non-achievement, of a healthy indoor environment. This information is still relevant today, especially considering that one of the goals for the new Middle School building is to provide a healthy indoor environment. If you're curious about my ideas for this design, just ask me. (email@example.com) Kate Dike Blair: The Hawthorne Inheritance, An historical novel featuring Kate’s Hawthorne cousins, coming in July from Sunbury Press: Author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sister Louisa drowns in 1852. But was it really an accident? In 1830, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin John Stephens Dike flees Massachusetts and his abusive stepmother Priscilla and settles in Ohio, where he expands his uncle’s successful Grocery Emporium and marries his beloved Margaretta. Haunted only by occasional debilitating headaches, he considers his painful past to be safely behind him, until in 1883 an unexpected inheritance from his cousin Elizabeth Hawthorne brings John Stephens’ nightmarish boyhood again to the fore.
The inheritance consists of a crate of shabby furniture and a collection of old papers detailing the love affair between John Stephen’s late father John Dike and Hawthorne’s younger sister, Louisa. But it also raises some questions surrounding Louisa’s drowning in the 1852 Henry Clay steamship disaster. The documents include: John Dike’s post mortem treatise regarding his affair with Louisa and her death; Louisa Hawthorne’s warm and witty diary entries celebrating the clandestine romance with John Dike and her experiences with Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and the Hawthorne, Alcott, Emerson, and Peabody families; and damning letters to a clergyman from the late Priscilla Dike detailing her hellish revenge. But can John Stephens conquer his childhood terrors and find justice for Louisa? And what other literary bombshells lie hidden within Elizabeth Hawthorne’s bequest? In this meticulously researched historical novel, Kate Dike Blair salutes her Hawthorne cousins and their circles, explores inconsistencies in the Henry Clay accident inquest, and chronicles for the ages John and Louisa’s star-crossed romance. https://www.the-hawthorne-inheritance.com/ A Swimmer’s Diary Ken Clarkson Over the past year, I spent a lot of time pondering our local waters as I swam through the seasons of Covid. I wrote about my experiences in a recent blog: A Pandemic, A Pond, and Perseverance. First...The Dunker’s Disclaimer Most written material you encounter about swimming in cold water comes with big disclaimers, in big red bolded font, advising of the hazards if you are not careful. I have been teaching wild edible plant classes for years. Likewise, most edible plant books come with similar disclaimers saying to read the material, but don’t go out there and eat wild plants willy nilly. The flip side of these words of caution are the claimers- that within the content is an invitation for a life-enhancing experience,
but only if you proceed safely, do your research diligently, share your experience with a buddy, and possibly with consultation of a physician. My friend Duncan in the story below happens to work in the healthcare profession, so I had a slight advantage. I consider myself a strong swimmer, so add one more advantage. So enjoy the story for what it is, a story and not a how-to guide. But if you want a swim buddy...I’m easy to find. ********* Since I was five years old, I've been a creature of the water. Competitive swimming was my life from this young age through college. After college, I "retired" to surfing when I moved to Hawaii and then California. I have stayed wet whenever possible over much of my life. I’m lucky to have lived in South Kona, Hawaii where I could snorkel daily with green sea turtles and swim at night with manta rays and bioluminescence. I've swum through rapids of the Grand Canyon and dunked at the base of pure spring desert waterfalls where you could drink the water while submerged. In Alaska I swam in cold rivers sourced from melt (I didn't last long in those cold waters). None of those experiences, however, could compare to the connection I've had with our local pond over the past twelve months. The onset of Covid over a year ago resulted in the local indoor swimming pool shutting down. Little did I realize that this would change my life and more specifically my relation to water. 70's Fahrenheit— In early June last year, my friend Duncan called me on the phone. "Ken, I'd like to work on my crawl stroke. Since you used to coach swimming, could you give me some pointers?" Duncan showed up the next morning, and we started swimming across the pond. I gave him some pointers. The water was a comfortable temperature, in the mid-seventies. We started swimming three times a week at 7 am. Dawn patrol fishermen dotted the shore, and occasional morning swimmers roamed the periphery. After two and a half years living by the pond, I hadn't "trained" by doing long distance swimming in these waters. I usually ventured down daily to romp in the pond with family and friends. For some reason I had been in a rut. I believed the indoor pool was for "training" and outdoors was for fun and play. That was about to change.
The water was relatively clear and warm. Being a faster swimmer, I swam ahead of Duncan and then floated on my back to watch ospreys, hawks, kingfishers or eagles while he caught up. I was starting to like this routine. 80's— As late summer approached, the water warmed. Occasionally you could see a thin film along the surface. Pollen or algae? Hard to tell. The temperature was warm enough to heat my core and face to an almost uncomfortable level during peak exertion. Duncan was getting faster. He had outfitted himself with fins, and we now kept a similar pace. He started arriving with printed Google maps showing the distance we had covered previously, and a route we could take from beach to beach to fence and back that equaled a mile. The sunfish roamed the shore’s edge and would nibble our toes if we lingered near too long in the calf-deep water of the pond’s edge. My favorite mornings were swimming through a low layer of warm mist in the rainwater while submerged. None of these experiences however, could compare to the connection I've had with our local pond over the past twelve months. The onset of Covid over a year ago resulted in the local indoor swimming pool shutting down. Little did I realize that this would change my life and more specifically my relation to water. 70's— As summer drew to a close, the swimming crowds thinned in the morning as virtual or hybrid schooling kicked in due to the pandemic. Duncan continued to arrive at my house on his bike by 7 am three times a week. It was nice feeling the shift back to a more comfortable water temperature. We could swim a little harder without overheating. The die-hard morning swimmers still arrived, and you could see their brightly colored floats trailing behind them as they traversed the pond. The early fall bird migrations were beginning. When I did back-stroke I would watch the geese fly over in "V" formation and orient myself to the cardinal directions. "Let's see, which way is north," I would think. Some flocks were already beginning their southward journeys. 60's— I remember thinking at the pond one morning..."Where did all the swimmers go?" Getting in the water in the morning was starting to feel a bit jolting to my body. When I surfed in California, the ocean water was usually between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. During the early New England fall,
the kids and I had continued surfing in New Hampshire, Boston, and Rhode Island. We had been tracking the local ocean temperature at those locations. The pond temperature felt like it was in the same range. Being curious as to the daily pond temperature, I went to the local hardware store and bought a cheap thermometer. It confirmed that the temperature was in the 60’s. The morning swims felt so refreshing. The hot cup of coffee upon returning home after swims tasted better as I hugged it to my chest for warmth. 50's— "That's it. I'm done. Too cold!" said Duncan one morning after making it to the first dock buoy then quickly retreating to the shore. Now what? I went online that day and found a used cold water triathlon wetsuit. The online ads all had the same description— "Used twice to train, then once for the race." It showed up in the mail two days later. I was back in the water feeling super floaty and warm in my new suit. This is awesome, I thought— now I can swim through winter! Maybe. There was the complication of ice. Try as I might, I couldn't convince Duncan to get a wetsuit to join me. So, I borrowed my wife's pink flotation buoy for my safety comfort companion and I kept going. I was expecting the water clarity to improve, but the opposite happened. The water became cloudy. There were days when the fall leaves sank below the surface creating a mosaic of oak, pine and maple leaves in suspension as they slowly descended to the bottom. It was beautiful to swim through. 40's— I kept swimming several times a week in my wetsuit. And then I saw the documentary My Octopus Teacher. In the movie, Craig Foster mentioned that he swam every day in the South African coastal waters. He said the water was around 5 degrees Celsius year-round. I was a big fan of his work and had seen all of his previous documentaries. I pulled up the conversion table. 5 Celsius = 41 Fahrenheit. Craig swam in the movie with only a mask, snorkel, fins, a neoprene hoodie, and shorts. The previous winter I had taken a Wim Hof cold training course and had spent 15 minutes up to my neck in the water on the edge of the pond on a sunny January morning. My January dunk the previous winter was a glimpse into this experience.
I froze the frame on the documentary so I could see the brand of neoprene hoodie that Craig wore. I placed my order. A few days later, I put my wetsuit back in the storage box and stood on the edge of the pond in my swim shorts, a new 5 mm thick hoodie, and a pink buoy belt around my waist. I looked kinda goofy, but I didn’t care. There was no one around anyway. The temperature had just dropped recently to 49 Fahrenheit. I dove in. The shock was immediate, but with a warm brain and no "ice cream headaches," I swam. I could feel a shift in my core. My muscles in my arms tightened and felt a bit numb. My pace slowed. I only swam for about five minutes. When I emerged on the shore my legs, arms, and torso were pink, but I felt so good. I'm pretty sure this feeling could be attributed to the endorphin rush that accompanies cold water immersion. The few remaining fall fishermen I encountered in the weeks that followed would occasionally make funny comments when I swam by their boats. But I kept swimming. I was hooked. 30's — Occasionally I coerced my daughter Phoebe to be my "copilot" and accompany me on my swims. She home-schools, and at the time was taking a class across the pond at a local teacher's house. I'd swim with her to class while she paddled the kayak. After dropping her off, I dropped her off, I tied a strap around my waist and pulled the kayak back. Later in the afternoon I would reverse the process. The first day it snowed while swimming at the pond, Phoebe joined me in the kayak. She wore her favorite rainbow-colored snow jacket. The water was warmer than the air, so it actually felt more comfortable to be in the water than standing on shore in the snow. Some winter days though, when the wind blew, it was really hard to get out of the water (or into the water). One windy winter day my fingers were so cold that I couldn't get my socks on when I emerged. Attempting to insert a wet foot into a fuzzy snow boot resulted in a wardrobe malfunction, and I had to hobble home trying to push my skateboard while wearing floppy boots. It didn't work well. Freeze-Up— When the ice first appeared, for a limited time I could break through the thin layer and make a short channel for swimming if I wore my neoprene gloves to keep the ice from cutting my hands. I started researching the effects of
cold on the body, so I could understand more about what was happening to my brain and body. I learned about the safety precautions and the benefits to my immune system, brown fat, and mental well-being. I joined several cold water swim forums and learned tips to be safe. I never ventured far from shore. I only swam for the recommended time based on the water temperature. As the pond approached the freezing point, the feeling of swimming in water in the 30's was intense and edgy. I would only swim for a couple minutes before retreating to my towel. Eventually the thick ice came, and the swimming halted. I read Norwegian ice swimming forums where they argued over the best chainsaw or axe to use to cut holes in the ices. I missed the routine and the feeling of my weekly swims. I looked for a few windows, when I wouldn't disturb the ice fishing or skaters. I cut a small hole a few times in the thick ice with my maul, just big enough for a shallow stationary dunk. Break-Up— As spring approached, the ice began to thaw around the edges and I resumed short dunks and then longer forays. One day as the ice retreated, I donned my wetsuit, hoodie, and gloves and called on my kayak copilot. Being someone who studies "survival" skills, I wanted to have a gauge for how thin ice needed to be to fall through, and what it would feel like to break through thin ice. With Phoebe as my backup, I swam to the edge of the remaining ice sheet and scrambled onto the ice. I jumped up and down until it cracked and I fell through. I did this repeatedly and practiced scrambling out onto thin ice after falling through. I appreciated my wetsuit and my copilot. I learned a lot that day about ice dynamics and how to practice pulling myself out should I ever need the skill. I had so much fun that a few days later I tried it again, but the warming conditions had changed so rapidly that I could no longer scramble onto the ice. Instead, it broke under my arms as I swam. I’d have to wait until next winter to try again. 40's— I remember one day years ago, after surfing the winter Santa Cruz waves, when I had an extremely difficult time getting my car key into the lock because my hands were shaking so violently. This past winter, after I walked home from
swimming in the cold water of the pond, when I reached my driveway, the cold core shivers would begin. I did some research. After drop, also known as peripheral vasoconstriction, is what happens after you leave cold water. When your body is exposed to cold, it cleverly closes down the circulation in your limbs in order to keep the core and its vital organs warm. When you get out of the water and put warm clothes on, the body reverses the process. The warm circulation returns to the limbs, but this time the cold blood of the limbs returns to the core body and your core temperature will actually drop. So you start shivering. I'd make my coffee with shivering hands and then sit on a couch wrapped in a wool blanket until the shivering subsided while I read a book. Soon after the buffleheads arrived at the pond to rest on the shrinking patch of ice, it melted away. I slowly started venturing further from shore as the days grew longer. 50's — The swallows arrived as the water temperature warmed. The dawn chorus of the local birds was finished by the time I arrived for morning spring swims. I started calling Duncan again. I coerced him to try my wetsuit. He reluctantly showed up one morning, borrowed my suit and joined me once again. He soon bought a matching neoprene hoodie. It was good to have a swim buddy again. The water was the clearest it had been all year. It was amazing to swim over the deepest holes of the kettle pond and see the bottom. The bald eagle and the osprey returned, as did the fishermen. The bass started reappearing in small groups from the depths. The clear water wouldn’t last long. With the spring bloom, the pollen soon clouded the water followed by cottonwood fluff on the surface. By 7:15 when we'd hit the water, the sun was well above the trees. 60’s— As I write, the after drops are shrinking in duration. Parts of the surface water on the south facing shore are hitting the 60’s. Duncan purchased his own second-hand wetsuit, "Used twice to train, then once for the race,” so I’ll hopefully have a swimming buddy as fall returns with its chill. I imagine that soon I'll ditch my neoprene hoodie, once the water passes the “brain freeze point”. As Duncan and I continue swimming the pond perimeter, we have come full circle in the seasons of the pond. As summer approaches I am melancholy for the slowly fading cold water.
The temperature cycle is a personality of the pond that will depart but return, as it has for millennia. I’ll continue returning too, but these cycles of the pond will far outlast my human form. Still, for my short time here, I am changed by its waters. I am so grateful for this pond and what it has taught me this past year. While the pandemic raged and worry abounded, I have been able to find windows of hope in the chilly waters. I called my dunks my "sanity swims" even though some people shook their heads and called me crazy. I get stuck in my mind more than I would like. I fret about the past and worry about the future. At times the pandemic amplified this. While some days I was hesitant to venture into the cold water, I welcomed each opportunity to swim, because the pond gifted me moments to truly be present. It's really hard to describe the sensation of the deep cold swims. The moment I plunged into the cold water, my lungs reflexively gasped, but then, after the first initial strokes, I was just there. Sometimes it was a detached feeling, as if I were an observer watching my arms move through the air and water. Other times I was lost in the experience, as I gazed at the patterns of rocks, stumps, leaves, and fish below me. My favorite moments happened at the end of the swims, when I rolled over, grabbed my buoy and just floated— I lost the boundary between my form and the water, watched the clouds drift, felt my heartbeat in my chest, and was glad to be alive for another day. MEMBERSHIP The Friends of White Pond is a citizens’ organization founded in 1987, whose mission is to protect the water quality of White Pond. Family memberships are $20.00 a year. Funds are used for scientific equipment, publication of Ponderings, and erosion control projects. Please send membership dues and donations to: The Friends of White Pond, 20 Darton Street, Concord, MA 01742 Thank you to all of our Friends