About fourteen years ago, my wife and I moved to a house overlooking a small pond in Portugal Cove. This weekend, we will move back to St. John’s.
I’d like to say I know every square inch of that pond — and the woods paths around it, the old grazing fields above it and the rock crest above all that offers a stunning view of Conception Bay.
But I don’t. There are still a few nooks and crannies I haven’t explored. There are still bits of shoreline I don’t know, and secret berry patches still undiscovered.
But for those 14 years, I have wandered around those fields, into those woods and up to the hilltops. One or more dogs — my own and occasionally those of friends — would happily meander along. We were only 10 minutes’ drive from the capital city, but at times it felt like being in the middle of the wilderness.
I don’t have much of a head for plant life, but I could map from memory every bog and mud pool on those walks. I know them, because our golden retriever knows them. He knows when to lope on ahead or hang back in such a way as to sneak a luxurious mud bath before we can stop him. On some days, a dirty, smelly dog is a nuisance. On hot summer days, it would be unthinkable to deny him the cooling pleasure of these natural spas. Afterwards, looking like a chocolate dip confection, he would trot back down the path and happily slip into the pond. In the summer, I would join him, stretching back in the water and floating in the sun like a Club Med regular.
Our English setter also swims, but prefers to fish for pricklies along the shore. She stares intently at the small fish, her bedraggle ears hanging beside her eyes like blinders. Then … sploosh. In goes her snout, and into her nostrils goes the water. She pulls back with a snort, but rarely with anything to show for it.
With winter’s freeze, we could skate or ski or just circumnavigate the pond on foot. On a weekend, there’d be a few others out doing the same, along with a scattered snowmobile buzzing back and forth.
There’s no need for a leash on winter walks when the frozen pond serves as an alternative to the road. And then magically, in late April, we’ll turn the corner heading home one day and the pond will have opened up again.
From our living room window, I’ve seen that pond turn every colour under the sun. From peaceful olive and aqua to a desolate, dark grey. From glistening gold to sunset red to robust, white-capped ocean blue. And every shade of purple imaginable.
The visual detail is lost to me now. With my eyesight failing, I see the world in broader strokes. But I can still hear the intricate whispers of wind on water and my mind fills in the crisp lines of the pond’s endless wonder.
We are moving now to be closer to amenities and bus routes, to family and friends. We look forward to having ready access to work, social events and shopping. For me, not being able to drive, it will mean a much-coveted return to independence.
Our dogs will have the hardest time adjusting. They are country dogs, unaccustomed to the distracting bustle of city sidewalks. On a trip to town some years ago, our setter brought up solid in a crosswalk on a busy street. She has a mortal fear of grates, manholes, bridges and the like, and the striped lines in the road fooled her. As drivers and pedestrians looked on amused, I pushed and tugged and finally picked her up and carried her to the curb.
The dogs will miss our home in the country. But they, like us, will eventually adjust.
We can still visit our beloved pond, like tourists, to enjoy its cool depths and to trek the hills around it. But it will not be there to greet us in the morning, nor to welcome us home in the afternoon, like a stalwart friend, when we escape the daily ratrace. So long, golden pond.
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.
He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.