Angels on Walden Pond

The acorns have started dropping now that Labor Day has come and gone. I am tempted to mourn summer's passing. I think of warm days swimming in Walden Pond, but as I would sink backward into the water, I could feel I was ready. Ready for the renewal of fall.

Soon frost will creep up onto porch railings and winds will slap at storm windows. This brings me hope. Fall offers the chance to wriggle out of things that no longer suit us, like a snake shedding its skin.

At Walden my friend would strike out to swim to the far bank. I, on the other hand, was always afraid to swim where my toes couldn't touch the sandy bottom. I would watch the water inch up to the elastic on my swimsuit and would paddle close to shore.

Arms stretched over my head, I would sink backward into the water. I would lift my hand, drops beading off my fingers with all the quietness of an oar dipping into a river. I was making the motion of snow angels in the water. The angels were fleeting, though, moments later the waters would flow across, covering the ripples that I made.

If we're lucky, Boston will have a first snow by Thanksgiving. After turkey and pie, the littlest cousins in parkas and mittens will trudge out to make angels in the snow, creating definition where once there was none. Pom-poms on their hats will make halos, their arms will whoosh back and forth over their heads to form wings.

At Walden I could always see my friend's head bobbing in the distance. He absolutely refused to submit to the season. One year, he bought a wet suit and announced he would challenge the New England weather for months yet. Like the last brilliant flash of July fireworks on the Esplanade, he was always defiant.

But the shadows are long now, and the cicadas' hum insistent. By January, the snow will be thick and the angels will be plentiful. My friend's wet suit will be hung up in a hall closet. Sometime by late March the icicles on house gutters will begin to drip. The snow, slushy, pushed aside for the last snow angel of the winter will reveal a blade of grass poking through.

But today, fall's brittleness is in the air. New beginnings have begun. I luxuriate in memories of floating on my back, knowing that what I am outgrowing will be sloughed off, giving rise to something far grander. Next year may just be the year I leave behind the sandy bottom and dare to swim out to Walden's far shore.

Miranda Daniloff Mancusi is a freelance writer.

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