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Next story: Summer Calendar: Musts, Festivals, Garden Walks, and Tours

Summer Guide 2012 Introduction: Pond Swimming

In the 1970s, it seemed like there were more ponds. Swimming clubs had them, day camps had them, anyone who lived remotely in the country had them. My grandfather was obsessed to them—he dug out one for goldfish and ice skating, one for water lilies, and one for the ducks he hoped would stop in as they migrated north. The one that mattered in the summer, though, was the back pond, where we could swim. This last was really Grandma’s. I never even saw my grandfather out of a button-down shirt, but Grandma pretty much lived in a swimsuit from June through August.

As the afternoon sun beat down, we would grab our towels and a plastic thermal mug of Pepsi and head down to the pond. There were two paths you could take, both worn about the same. The sunny one wended through the milkweeds and past some blackberry bushes, and the shady way went through a grove of pine trees, and was soft underfoot with a bed of needles lying on the moss. At the pond’s edge was a tall wood dock that you could dive off of, and when you clambered back up you could watch your wet footprints vanish in the heat. You could also swim out to the middle, where a square float was moored, and there you could perform your fancier tricks—cartwheels, helicopter jumps, and the ever popular man-falling-into-the-water-while-reading-a-newspaper. There was also, mysteriously, a blue fiberglass rowboat in the cattails, though we were afraid to do more than inspect it as it had been colonized by enormous, revolting, thrilling bullfrogs. Back then, people didn’t complain about the pondness of a pond—it would be a couple of decades before I met a woman whose summer club lined the bottom of their pond with plastic so members wouldn’t have to walk on an icky bottom. At Grandma and Grandpa’s the muck was a big part of the charm: On the far side of the pond was a bank of clay—grey and slippery and perfect for throwing at each other.

There were rules, of course: When the grownups wanted to swim, we had to stop our wars and let the mud subside. For fear of drowning, we couldn’t swim right after lunch, a hoary diktat to which we all still, inexplicably, hew. We couldn’t splash any adults, or use their towels, and when they wanted more iced tea, or some Saltines, we had to run up to the house to fetch them.

At six or eight or 10, it didn’t strike us that we would ever be those grownups, or that anything would stop us from spending our summers eating hot blackberries and feeling the sun dry our hair. But I’m 43 now, and that pond doesn’t even exist anymore.

- catlin love crowell

Special thanks go out to our patient—and good humored—cover model Josh Smith (pictured above).

Josh is an artist, poet, writer and winner of Artvoice’s 2012 Best of Buffalo awards for “Best Poet” and “Best Spoken Word Artist”. You can view his work and upcoming apperances online at In addition, he will be headline a reading on Thursday, June 14 at 7pm at Barnes & Noble (3349 Monroe Ave., Rochester) as part of the “Just Poets Reading Series”.

More Artvoice Summer Guide 2012:
Intro: Pond Swimming • Events: Summer Musts, Festivals, Garden Walks, and Tours
Enjoy the Waterfront: WNY From the WaterWheels on the Water
Music: Summer Spotify MixtapeFree Summer Concert Guide
Summer Eats: Cool Food for Warm WeatherThree Wines for Your Summer Oases

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