Here’s the thing about where we live. It gets chilly most winters, sure. But there’s no guarantee a cold spell will descend long enough to form ice on the pond down the street. Some winters, the skating club perched on an old millpond on the outskirts of town doesn’t open at all. Unlike northern New Hampshire or Vermont or, say Michigan or Minnesota, when the opportunity to lace up the steel runners and fly across the rutted ice arrives here, it’s fleeting. So the frigid temps we had last week, combined with the brilliant sunshine Saturday afternoon and forecasts of a warming trend conspired to provide something like a textbook day for skating--and, for cold weather photography too. Only, I was not alone.
At the skating club where I headed first, inside, I knew a wood stove would be churning a dry heat. After framing a few pictures of folks gliding across the pond in front of it, I planned to warm my cold hands with a cup of hot cocoa. But, nope. Cars parked every which way around the worn red building. A row of SUV’s lined the road about a quarter mile in each direction. I couldn’t find a place to park. Scratch that potential image of Americana.
At Lily Pond, the ice fishermen were out. I pulled into the water plant, the only safe place to leave a car. Pick-up trucks lined the driveway. The one available place from which to take a non-obstructed view photo (I'm not tall enough to see over the reeds) meant climbing through the snow and I wasn’t wearing the right boots. I headed toward a tiny street on the other side of the pond…but from that direction, I couldn’t see the fishermen and the sun was dead on. I got skunked there too.
As the late afternoon sun prepared to drop behind the tree line, I drove toward the harbor, hoping for that golden light that colors everything in sepia tones. Lobster boats floated amid an Arctic slush of sea water. Powdered snow squealed underfoot as I climbed up the wooden ramp to the shuttered yacht club. I got a few pictures off before deciding icy salt water may be one of the coldest looking things in nature, but it was the polar wind blowing off that water that caused the real sting.
With aching fingers, I climbed back into the warm car and steered toward Meeting Pond on the common. Even after almost 21 years, still there are times I am awed at the classic composition of New England our town conjures up. This was one of them.