When I was a kid. When we were very young. Back in the good old days. Anyway yes, way back when, to get to our school we used to have to walk through a forest, which comprised of about eighty percent of our walk. There and back, twice or four times a day, spring, winter, fall, with a bit of summer tacked on at both ends. We were on one side of the forest and our school on the other.
In spring huge puddles would form between groves of trees, to become ponds. And the ponds were filled with life. Early on we got to recognize the clusters of frog eggs, which became tadpoles or pollywogs, which became weird missing link type of frogs with tails which then graduated to dry land. Sometimes we’d fill jars and bring them home to watch this compressed display of evolution, marveling at the tadpoles as they wiggled up and down the inside of the jar.
And some of these ponds were dark, and deep, a surprise, because they didn’t seem that way after the summer heat emptied them of their dark contents. But with water, they seemed bottomless as I recall. Deep enough to fill our galoshes when tested. Deep enough to suck the boots from our feet, to be abandoned to that darkness, or retrieved if someone brave accompanied us. Deep enough to thrill us.
By the same manner, the lakes in the Canadian Shield, just to the north of us, held the same mystery and terror and seeds to stir the imagination; they were said to be bottomless. Had anyone ever tried to go to the bottom? Had anyone drowned? Were they still down there? Where exactly was there? Was it like Journey to the Centre of the Earth, with James Mason, which had thrilled us at Saturday afternoon matineés? We were guarded as we walked the narrow trails around these lakes, fearing that not only would we fall, but that we would be sucked towards the bottomless bottom.
And there was a groundhog hole in a narrow passage between two garages in our neighbourhood. As kids we’d leap across the hole, telling one another that it led down to hell. This was actually a kind of activity, if one were to describe or recall the day’s events, leaping over the hole counted as much as collecting tadpoles, building airplanes or hiding in half built homes.
But in spring, back then, what was only a momentary coming-forth of life, flowers, birds, was less a growing season, than part of a cycle. I’d pick dogtooth violets, lilies of the valley––never a trillium, it was against the law––and other as-yet-to-be-identified purple flowers, and make daily bouquets for my mother. It seemed eternal, rather than a fraction of my life.
But it’s larger now isn’t it? Perhaps not even a cycle, nor a season, nor a series of seasons, as much as it might be waves washing the shore. Perhaps a rise and fall, but never the same spring twice.