We put the canoe in, Sophie and I, before the sun had warmed the pond and the fog had dissipated. Enveloped by the smell of damp-draped earth, we paddled in silent synchrony, each paddle angled efficiently, barely registering sound slicing the water. When we spoke, it was of the European cities we would visit, the country house we would build and the summers we would spend on Martha’s Vineyard. As the chill and the fog lifted, we saw the blue sky, expanding like a promise that we were moving into. Sophie was silent, as the sun warmed our backs, which strained to maintain our rhythm. She pointed ahead where the pond spread left and right. I steered to the right, the better to see the lily pads, and I knew she would be happy to see the frogs. As we made the turn, I looked at the water and could not see the bottom, as we had at other times. It could have been that the silt had been stirred by the storm that had passed the previous evening, or that, this time of year, the vegetation had increased its issue. Our silence sat heavier, and I couldn’t see Sophie’s face as she commanded the front of the boat. Then we saw it, a white and pink carpet of petals spread wide across the water, leaves so thick and so dense that we felt we could walk on them. Sophie commented on how deep the roots went and wondered if these plants generated from the floor of the pond and grew upward, or from the surface and grew downward, finding a firm place to plant themselves. I laughed about the double meaning of the word plant and Sophie, her face half-turned, narrowed her eyes. A breeze rippled the surface of the pond, and we could see the lily flowers sway and the frogs bob gently. The water, stirred once again, took on a browner, murkier cast. The lily pads thickened the further we ventured. The boat slowed. Sophie’s shoulders tightened. I could no longer match her strokes. We heard a splash and turned to see a young golden retriever swimming near shore and a child standing on a rock smiling at him. Sophie’s paddle smacked the water on its flat side, spattering us with droplets. She said how much children would enjoy this pond, how they would love swimming in the early summer, when the lake was clear and cool, boating in the fall with the brilliant display of color that is New England’s pre-winter gift, skating in the winter and fishing in the spring. I nodded, though she could not see me, and I thought I heard her voice catch as she changed the subject to dinner plans. The afternoon was approaching and we had things to do, so I steered the boat around while Sophie paddled more urgently. Our paddles hit the water with greater frequency and force. With the splashing, and with our timing off, the canoe jerked forward, moving faster, but in spurts, struggling to maintain a straight line, and getting us back to shore no faster than we had paddled out. We rammed the canoe onto the shallow sand where we had put in. Sophie stepped out without looking back and I, caught unaware, quickly shifted to keep the boat from overturning. After I got myself out, we turned the boat over, emptying its contents of sand, water and twigs. And one small frog.
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