These days I often travel to other places for walks, either with groups or with a single friend or family member. Silver Lake is not my only option as in days past when I was beset with health challenges. And yet, near the end of the day the blue sky beckons. A walk had not been part of the plan, but the sun sank low and the lake was still there, waiting for me to step outside for a visit.
The joy of living in the same place over the years is that you have the chance to observe changes, both through the seasons, and over the years as well. When I was quite ill, my big adventure was to step outside and stroll alongside Silver Lake, a walk I took almost daily. After all those walks, I’d seen all there was to be seen, or so I thought.
Despite these daily walks along the familiar route, it was years before I realized that Silver Lake was a regular stopover spot for migrating mergansers–hooded, common, and red breasted. They have all visited this small (60 acre) pond that is essentially the headwaters of the Peters River. Besides mergansers, the occasional bufflehead stops for a visit, along with scaups. These travelers are shy of strangers, and hug the shore away from where I walk. It was only in learning to use binoculars that I became aware of these seasonal visitors. Now I watch and wait for them each spring and fall, and mark the passage of time when they are finally gone, either north for the summer, or back south with the coming of cold weather.
On occasion a rare cormorant visits to dive in the shallow waters, then dry his wings in the sunshine as he perches on one of the many stumps that clutter the pond, remnants from a time before the river was dammed to create Silver Lake. Osprey very rarely visit, but when they do they circle, then dive into the water to retrieve a meal. Great blue herons hunt in the shallows in all seasons but winter. Kingfishers chatter and clack along the length of the lake, announcing their presence. Mute swans spend much of the year at the lake raising their young, and the muskrat swims daily near the shore at dusk before disappearing for the night into his home in the cattails.
This day I grabbed my camera and binoculars, expecting nothing, but willing to be prepared…just in case. We’d recently been through a late season blizzard, so the shoreline was filled with snow. The ice on the lake, however, was glazed–the water had been open during the storm and only froze again as the temperatures plunged into the teens in the aftermath of the storm.
The ice displayed strange curved lines arcing across the expanse of what was, and with the coming spring will remain open water. Pockets of open water showed here and there in odd places.
The hillocks of grass where the lake is quite shallow are covered in pillows of snow. The spot is a favorite hangout for spring peepers, and they had started singing a week or two ago, but today are silent.
And then there was an odd pattern quite near shore. As if something had thrashed about on the surface of the frozen lake, crashing and shattering the ice in a curving arc. Nearby another similar shattering of ice had also frozen over.
A curious dog perhaps? Had he fallen in, crashed about, pulled himself out only to break through the ice again nearer to shore? I took a few more pictures, then headed home. Some stories will never be told, and we are all left to wonder.
Marjorie Turner Hollman
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! On the board of directors of the Association of Personal Historians, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com