Last swim of the season

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With the orange stand-up paddle board under my right arm, my swim gear and paddle in my left hand and under my left arm, I walk down the weathered wood steps to the sandy beach. It’s a short hop to the water’s edge. I step in, ankle deep, lowering the SUP board onto Bear Pond.

I grab my flat rock anchor attached to two pieces of rope joined by a square knot. Tying it to a handle on the SUP board bow, I back the board into calf deep water, climb aboard, and paddle out onto the pond.

This will likely be my last swim in the pond this year, I think. Town workers have removed the floatation ropes marking off the public beach swimming area. Those ropes are strung through a series of white barrel shaped foam pieces which kept the ropes afloat. My grandson, Grafton, says the floats look like marshmallows.

I am the only human on the pond. After Labor Day the summer people leave in dribs and drabs.

For Eileen and I this summer, a nearby handful of brown mallards were a source of continued education. Eileen wondered why we were only seeing female mallards. My research showed we were, in fact, seeing female and juvenile mallards. Moms and kids. Both have the same brown feathers. The kids are distinguished by yellow bills. Mallard dads have nothing to do with child rearing. (Maybe that’s the origin of the expression “duck out.”)

Do I make a last attempt to find that sunken metal can and retrieve it? Do I paddle out near the rock pile foundation of a bygone water slide? Or do I head for uncharted pond waters?

With fall colored leaves going by on top of the water, I head for where I think I’ll find the can. Using my paddle tip I ease the flat rock over the side into the water.

Sitting sideways I dangle my legs in the water. It’s cold. But not too cold. I slip on my yellow swim fins, swim mask and snorkel. Then I slide off into the water and start swimming.

It’s quiet under the water. In the summer, I often hear the whir of boat motors, barking dogs, and sometimes music. It’s important then to be aware of the boats: What are they doing? How fast are they doing it? Is the person driving looking ahead or back at the kids they’re towing?

On this last swim I am able to focus solely on observing underwater.

The late September pond floor is pea soup green. I have fun finding and retrieving old bottles, metal objects — even modern debris like beer cans. “Just doing my part to beautify Bear Pond,” I tell my neighbors.

This day, however, all I’m seeing are freshwater mussels, underwater vegetation (a continuing education subject for another day), and rocks I’ve examined before and left on the pond floor.

I don’t find that elusive can. Next year. Instead, I dive down, bring my flat rock up and onto the SUP board. Then I lift myself onto the board and paddle over to the bygone water slide rock foundation. With fins and mask back on I slip into the water for a lap around the rock pile. There are plenty of small fish using these dark silt covered rocks as a fortress against predators. One decent size bass checks me out.

Then it’s time for me to go.

Before I do, I swim to the rock pile peak. There’s a large white rock Grafton and I put there. I named it Grafton Rock — which makes no sense to Grafton. But it reminds me of our time together in this water. I wipe away the gathered silt until it’s again the brightest rock on the pile.

Then I weigh anchor, climb aboard the orange SUP board, and paddle alone back to Camp Marlene.

Scott K. Fish has served as a communications staffer for Maine Senate and House Republican caucuses, and was communications director for Senate President Kevin Raye. He founded and edited AsMaineGoes.com and served as director of communications/public relations for Maine’s Department of Corrections until 2015. He is now using his communications skills to serve clients in the private sector.

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