Outdoors

Chilling on the ice during a break from school

The Nature Call: Local pond provides outdoor fun

A snow day at school was a good day to play on an ice-covered pond near John Hanson's home. (John Lawrence Hanson/corres
A snow day at school was a good day to play on an ice-covered pond near John Hanson’s home. (John Lawrence Hanson/correspondent)
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I was getting enough of a chill that I was ready to retreat.

But the boys were having fun seeing who could whip whom farther on the ice. I underdressed on purpose so I wouldn’t make them stay out too long; hoisted by my own petard.

But, it being a snow day, I tarried until they asked to go home. There was a line to cross of being cold enough you need to go home and I hadn’t crossed it yet.

Our little pond was hidden in plain sight. It was my obsession to check it out before “progress” paved it over in the name of improvement. I don’t know how mankind improves a little pond with a big intersection. But the pond was man made in the first place, so, one divided by one.

I learned it was going to be a snow day at zero-dark thirty. Rats. It’s not a day off, it’s a day deferred to beautiful June. Sweet, sweet June.

Since I walk to school, I personally see no need for snowdays. I’ve worn spikes just to get to school. Of course both times the day was called anyway. If Karma rings, tell her I’m not home.

The little pond had enough novelty the complaints stopped and the tom foolery began. Ice sliding, throwing stuff across the ice, jumping up and down to make cracks, and horizontal circle running a la Larry, Moe and Curly.

The pond crossed a divide of interest in the wild. The boredom of scrubland to the mysteries of hardened water.

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I wanted to survey. No muskrat huts, no beaver lodges, no life to speak of, save the travelers in the distance trying to beat the storm.

Impression from a solitary raccoon meandered. It must have been during a recent warm night. The ice yielded an onion skin of water, just enough to capture the tracks. The dividing line between liquid and solid water is mysterious, no real change in viscosity, either frozen or flowing. A bright dividing line.

The geographic watershed divide sends this water to Squaw Creek. Some miles to the east and the water would go to Big Creek. At any rate, both creeks go to the Cedar River. In this gentle terrain the dividing line between one watershed and the next goes unnoticed.

The superintendent of schools had an unenviable position. The difference between an easy call for this snow day and regret is often thin and relative. Its dividing line is only known ex post facto.

The wind was stronger now from the northeast than when we started our little adventure. I tasted an increase in humidity, the snow will arrive soon. We had given a portion of our day to the wilds, the rest of the day will be divided between being cozy in the comfort of home and hopefully manning the shovels.

Looking up, looking ahead, and keeping my pencil sharp.

John Lawrence Hanson, Ed.D., of Marion teaches U.S. history with an emphasis on environmental issues at Linn-Mar High School and sits on the Linn County Conservation Board.

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