Visit a pond at dusk and you’ll see magic. Not the kind of magic that turns toads into princes—although when a stout bullfrog croaks, interrupting the ballads of songbirds and crickets, you think of fairy tales.
Dusk at a pond in June includes swarms of gnats and water bugs skittering and causing you to wonder what underwater creatures lurk. You imagine catfish or turtles stirring the ripples, so you crane your neck to see what mysteries of the deep might emerge—Zap! A mosquito lands on the back of your outstretched neck—Swat! You’re back to the moment before the magic of the pond descended.
The sun sinks and you ask, how much time before darkness covers the pond, and will there be a moon?
And oh, yes, there it rises! Across the way, shrouded behind a patch of young oak trees. The last time you visited the pond, the trees seemed smaller. When did they stretch up and make a canopy to hide the moon?
Soon the sky shows periwinkle-purples and little orange lights burst over the grassy marsh on the far side, behind the bridge. The place where the pond overflows when it rains—but this evening the sky is clear. You look up and see traces of stars, just as the fireflies emerge—or maybe you call them lightning bugs—and they deepen, luminous and gold.
If the crickets held their breath, paused their song, could you hear the pond breathe? In daytime, if you skipped a pebble, painted map turtles would slip off a sunbaked log and hide beneath bubbling water. But at dusk, the world cools. The pond stills—waiting for the stage to change scenes—and the night creatures emerge. Dusk’s magic causes you to pause.
The mosquitoes have exited. The dirt path you planned to take home lies in darkness. You can’t see the trail that leads over a hill and passes a thicket of brambles and prairie flowers. Then it joins the sidewalk by the road, winding into your well-lit neighborhood where houses have lamps and noises galore.
You decide, yes, you can walk the path in the dark and pass the willow trees and birches that bend toward the earth with tangled branches. True, the trees may whisper or groan, but you can run, childhood memories of trees from storybooks fresh in your mind.
And now the moon spills onto the shore. There you see her. A mother raccoon. She washes her face and takes a drink, and you know she’s a female because three young racoons trail behind when she climbs the grassy bank and crosses the bridge. They head into the night, and you remember—their morning begins now. You drift into wondering where raccoons go and what they seek. When headlights appear from a truck on the road behind the patch of oak trees, you suddenly feel motherly yourself. You worry, will the raccoons make it safely across the road?
That’s when the magic disperses—thoughts pull you away from now, from the pond, so you turn. You pick up a rock. And as you aim it at the water, there it is. Bathed in light. The moon moved again. The entire pond shines and captures every thought. Every urge to move.
Dusk’s magic compelled you to stay, and now you breathe in this. You pause and your shoulders relax, and you laugh thinking about the willows and the birches you will pass, but not yet.
Photo Art by S. Friesen