Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review: At the Pond compiled by Daunt Books

There’s something really special about swimming in ponds and lakes. I wait every year for my first dip in the lake, heading out past the reeds and the cattails to float above an unseen bottom, sometimes brushed by lacy tendrils of seaweed, wondering whether fish are darting past me in the cold, refreshing water. My lake is quite different than I imagine the Ladies’ Pond at Hampstead Heath to be but as I read this collection of essays from authors and poets of different ages, races, and sexuality I felt the same love and feeling for place that I feel for my lake, plus their  appreciation of the community of women, open and inclusive and welcoming.

The Hampstead Ladies' Pond is one of several formed by the River Fleet as it flows through and under London. It is both a natural and a created space, one that feels timeless. It is nature tucked away and appreciated for its very hiddenness. The varied short essays are organized by season starting with those intrepid author swimmers who brave the cold of the pond in winter. Obviously the pond is more crowded and in demand during the summer but each of the seasons chronicled here is appealing. The reader slips into the essays the same way you'd slip into the smooth waters of the pond. Written by the famous as well as less well known authors, the essays are as different as each woman's experience swimming although each firmly places themselves in a long line of women bathing in the pond, a fellowship of women from every walk of life. As a collection, there is the unhurried importance of nature's role in creation and in the discovery of self. The essays read without any urgency, just a bucolic sense of rightness. Instead they inspire a slowing down, an examination, and an appreciation. This collection is probably best for those who can think of nothing better than sliding into the soft, magical fresh water of a pond or lake, those who love to swim "wild," but all nature enthusiasts will probably enjoy the wonder of the place just as literary readers will be pleased by the wide-ranging references.  I will think about several of these gorgeous essays for a long time, especially as I bob in the ripples blown across the surface of my lake.

1 comment:

  1. This gives me the shivers. I don’t swim in natural bodies of water. I don’t like slimy things sneaky up on me and touching me.


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