In the summer of 2018, I spent two weeks digging out the silted pond at the bottom of our garden. It had fallen into wild disrepair, with water replaced by a sludged mix of soil, gravel and rotting vegetation. The space for frogspawn and tadpoles, froglets and tiny dancing fish – all gone!

I would wake up and be outside for five in the morning, fresh faced and keen, before beating a hasty retreat indoors as the heatwave blazed.

Step into the mud, dig the spade in, hear a sucking gulp as its surface was disturbed and another sodden plop as I threw it into the bucket, then the wheelbarrow. Squeal, as I realise that my plastic wellies had cracked in yet another crease and so my socks had got damp and squishy yet again.

Repeat…

For a few days my view was dominated by a constant pattern of green and brown and the occasional hazy reflection of the sky. As I hit the water table, I saw little pockets of glimmering white standing out against the slop.

After it was all dug out, rainwater poured in. Life returned.

The pond has always been a space for me to sit and think. Although I’ve never been one for swimming or water sports - noisy swimming lessons for a painfully shy, agonisingly short-sighted child will tend to have that effect - I have always been attracted to bodies of water.   I still play pooh-sticks with myself on the quiet bridge in the village, and spent my summer holiday learning how to skim stones across a reservoir’s unnerving surface.

There is something about the possibilities of life around the water that intrigues me, the lives that I will only ever snatch glimpses of. I have learnt to accept that many things are mysteries, like love or life or death, and the creatures I half-see rank among these. I don’t know what the frogs, grass snakes and mayflies do with their flowing hours, apart from scare the living daylights out of me when I find one in a shoe!

Despite the individual nuances of our routines, watching the pond over the past two years has made me realise our respective places among the seasons and in this patch of land. Pond-digging has rooted me because now I know where I belong. Not literally - you wouldn’t catch me standing in there any more, not in my still-cracked wellies - but because each time I walk down to the pond and sit and think, I realise that I have the capability to make change happen.

Although my preference for social media may have put me in that sticky mess to start with, I learn from my mistakes. And as I learn, I watch.

I watch a grey heron wing his massive way above me, I watch frogspawn grow into tadpoles then into froglets and fully-grown frogs, who occasionally I need to shepherd across the driveway. I watch my twitchy reflection in the water’s surface, which is soon disrupted by a water boatman scuttling across my forehead.

When I am sitting here, without a thought in my head and my view full of life, that I am at my most peaceful. I have carved a space for myself and countless other creatures, and while we rely on the landscape for different things, I take solace in the feeling that we are alive in the same area of land and water and air, even if for only a glimmering instant.

Photograph of Izzy Blog written by Izzy Dignum

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