Uncle Merlin's street runs down a hill to the Mill Pond, which after all these years I still have trouble thinking of as a pond. For one thing, it's bigger than many of the puddles in the cornfields that they call lakes in Indiana, and the tranquil wet spots in the woods Upstate New Yorkers call ponds are mere spills from small glasses in comparison. And the wildlife's all wrong. My field guide to lakes and ponds is useless. Bull frogs don't sit on lily pads in this pond. Painted turtles don't bask on any logs. Finally, the water's salt water.
Nope. The Mill Pond can call itself a pond if it wants to but what it really is is ocean.
The Mill Pond is a crazy 8 shaped leak from Stage Harbor and if you had a mind to it, you could put your boat in at the dock at the end of the street here and sail to Portugal.
The upper bowl of the pond is banked in two-thirds the way around by clay dunes ranging from a few feet to thirty feet high, covered with beach plum, chokecherry, salt spray roses, bigtooth aspens, and poison ivy. The houses that sit on top and overlook the pond are year-rounders, with good-sized and well-tended lawns. In a very real way, the pond is a part of everybody's backyard, it's a very suburbanized bit of ocean, and the birds in the neighborhood are mostly suburban not ocean-going birds. Gulls do visit the pond, more of the quieter, more dignified black-backed gulls, fortunately, than the rude and raucous herring gulls that are to sea birds what dandelions are to wildflowers, and there are a couple of ospreys who find the fishing hereabouts to their liking. Once upon a time I came across a night heron nesting in the cordgrass.
But far more common are the sparrows, robins, finches, cardinals, and grackles who peck through the rockweed and eel grass, ride the branches of the wax myrtles in the salt breezes, and roost on top of the dock pilings. The other morning I watched a redwinged blackbird harry a crow down from the top of one of the bluffs and out across the water, the crow finally taking refuge in the bow of one of the small boats swinging at anchor just off the dock.
I used to spend a lot more time wandering around the Mill Pond but for more than a few years now I've been taking it for granted, treating it as just a piece of pretty scenery on the way from here to there and from there and back again. Saturday morning, though, I decided to take a look at it for its own sake once again.
The sandy path that runs around the pond is usually some degree of damp, ranging from slightly moist to submerged to drowned, depending on what the tide's been doing. Sometimes a walk around the pond is actually a barefoot wade through the pond. Saturday I was able to keep my shoes on and my feet dry which made stopping to poke around easier and more comfortable.
The marine life in and around the pond makes its existence known by leaving evidence of its usually violent demise. I turned up the usual momento mori.
The broken carapaces of horseshoe crabs.
Something that was home to a calico crab.
A knobbed whelk's egg case.
Evidence of human life is far more ubiquitous and livelier. But I'd never come across anything as lively as this before.
Yes, those bottles are full. The caps were all on tight. Empty Pabst cans were strewn all about. I'm guessing they were remains from the same party. How much Pabst do you have to drink before you forget that you have all this Corona waiting?
Maybe they forgot to bring limes.
Or a bottle opener.
There's a waste can at the end of the dock. I picked up all the cans I could find, but I left the bottles right there, intending to come back several times during the day to see how long before somebody with a vague sense of unfinished business from the night before remembered or somebody else with a powerful thirst and no sense thought they'd struck lucky or another somebody else with a conscience decided to be a good citizen. I didn't make it back again until Sunday.
The bottles were gone.
It's entirely possible that the tide carried them out and now they're bobbing their way to Portugal.