My dad solved most of life’s problems out on a Cape pond fishing.
Growing up alongside the textile factories in New Bedford, Massachusetts, his brushes with the natural world were few and far between. When my parents moved to the Cape and Shubael Pond in Marstons Mills in 1968 from the city, the Cape was a true natural wonderland. For my dad, fishing became a release from the monotony of the 9-5 at Comm Electric (days that would have him frustrated and swearing at co-workers even in his sleep) and a total reconnect with nature. For 35 years he lived this way eagerly looking forward to fishing with a friend or my brothers on weekend mornings.
You have to understand that for those who are born to be in nature, but are raised in a city, there is always that yearning for quiet and solitude: to wake with the sound of birds at dawn, to see the sun rise over a poetic little pond, to smell the earth waking up, to watch the mallards glide by silently, to clear the mind to hear one’s heart. It feels good to be on a pond in the morning, paddling alongside the rising sun. My dad knew that to be true and real if nothing else.
Shubael Pond, Marstons Mills
My parents sold my childhood home on Shubael Pond over 20 years ago and moved further into nature on our family’s land on top of a mountain in Bethel, Maine. More my dad’s dream than that of my mom to move so far away from family, they took on the new adventure and with their 10 acres, ran with it: waking to mountain sunrises, moose and deer sightings, and all the scents of white pine on the screened in porch one could want. New friends were made in Maine, new ponds were canoed on, and more inner peace was found by both my mom and dad.
Every time they came to visit us here on the Cape, we’d hear how crazy the traffic was getting, how claustrophobic it felt and having been exposed to even more quiet and less people, the world my dad once saw as a refuge, had indeed become just another city to him.
Shubael Pond, Marstons Mills
Last year, my father started getting tired a lot just as my 23 year old son started fishing more. One day my dad agreed to go on a Cape fishing expedition with my son and they weren’t gone very long. As my dad went from pond to pond with my son to show him the good places to fish, there were signs at the water’s edge not to fish, swim or let one’s dog drink from the water.
Cyanobacteria blooms were everywhere. He saw the ponds were being poisoned by people’s outdated septic systems and cesspools, lawn fertilizers, and careless town management of building alongside ponds.
He went back up to Maine sad and frustrated, unbelieving that this could happen. I mentioned to him it had been a long time coming, that it would soon be part of his world if not already up in Maine. That wherever you go, there you are. Like a pandemic, the problem is systemic and it’s not tiny band aids we need but whole systems thinking. We argued a lot, but he agreed with me on this.
Months later I headed up to Maine. Dad was getting more tired, was having problems breathing, was dizzy, and then suddenly getting blood transfusions. Three months later, my dad died of an aggressive cancer back here on the Cape, with my mom, my little brother and I beside him.
Over the course of the four days I was up in Maine, I noticed my dad was reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. I grabbed his copy and asked, since when did he read things like that? He said, “Amy, something is going on with our water. This lady knew it. There’s got to be a way to fix the ponds.”
Rachel Carson with her famous book Silent Spring, which documented the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides
As an environmentalist and a writer, I was aware that Rachel Carson knew a thing or two as well but was glad to see my father’s interest inspired by the decline of the Cape’s ponds. A few week’s after my father’s death, my mother gave me all my dad’s Rachel Carson books, four in total with a fishing license as a bookmark in his copy of Silent Spring.
The grief on my heart is so heavy, but how to turn the weight into something positive in the name of my dad?
I reached out to the good folks at APCC to volunteer to get more people to talk about about the ponds.
APCC’s website has a new page called “Pond Stories.” It is a way we will be shining that rising sun on our favorite, precious bodies of water. We want your stories, your pretty and not so pretty pictures, your videos of year-round swimming, of splashing, of calm, of anything you want to show us about your favorite pond.
Help us make more people fall in love with ponds again. Help us create another generation of better enlightened Cape Codders who seek to protect our ponds.
And thank you.
Got a Pond Story you want to share? Email Kristin Andres firstname.lastname@example.org
Pond Stories are a collection of writings from Cape Codders and visitors who love the 1000 local ponds that dot the Cape. We hope this collection of stories, that are as much endearing as they are environmentally aware, will awaken your inner environmentalist to think deeper about our human impacts to these unique bodies of water. Check out these valuable resources to learn more about the current challenges Cape Cod ponds are facing and how you can be a better pond steward in your town.