He climbed to the top of one of those million white pines set out across the emptying pastures of the fifties - some program to enrich the rich and rebuke the forefathers who cleared it all at once with ox and axe - climbed to the top, probably to get out of the shadow not of those forefathers but of this father and saw for the first time down in its valley, Bruce Pond, giving off its little steam in the afternoon,
pond where Clarence Akley came on Sunday mornings to cut down the cedars around the shore, I'd sometimes hear the slow spondees of his work, he's gone, where Milton Norway came up behind me while I was fishing and stood awhile before I knew he was there, he's the one who put the cedar shingles on the house, some have curled or split, a few have blown off, he's gone, where Gus Newland logged in the cold snap of '58, the only man will- ing to go into those woods that never got warmer than ten below, he's gone, pond where two wards of hte state wandered on Halloween, the Na- tional Guard searched for them in November, in vain, the next fall a hunter found their skeletons huddled together, in vain, they're gone, pond where an old fisherman in a rowboat sits, drowning hooked worms, when he goes he's replaced and is never gone,
and when Fergus saw the pond for the first time in the clear evening, saw its oldness down there in its old place in the valley, he became heavier suddenly in his bones the way fledglings do just before they fly, and the soft pine cracked.
I would not have heard his cry if my electric saw had been working, its carbide teeth speeding through the bland spruce of our time, or burning black arcs into some scavenged hemlock plank, like dark circles under eyes when the brain thinks too close to the skin, but I was sawing by hand and I heard that cry as though he were attacked; we ran out, when we bent over him he said, "Galway, Inés, I saw a pond!" His face went gray, his eyes fluttered close a frightening moment.
Yes - a pond that lets off its mist on clear afternoons of August, in that valley to which many have come, for their reasons, from which many have gone, a few for their reasons, most not, where even now and old fisherman only the pinetops can see sits in the dry gray wood of his rowboat, waiting for pickerel.