The Constancy of Change

Reader Contribution by Steve Daut
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Before sitting down to write this, I was looking out at our pond through the crisp bright morning sun here in Michigan, and it struck me how many faces the pond has presented to me in the short time we have lived in this house.

Late this summer, some days the water would be clear and deep, revealing the fish beds around the edge and the deep-growing weeds, other days it would run cloudy and seemed thick and substantial as a pool of dark cement. And the surface varied by week, by day, and by the hour. Some days it would shimmer with linear sparks of light flitting across the surface. Other times, it would lay flat and still as crystal. Sometimes the algae would spring up overnight, imparting a dayglow green sheen that made it look like a pool of melted crayons. Then the wind would come and compress the algae over to one side and the rest of the pond would thump against it as if to beat all the color out of it.

During the fall, it often turned dark and foreboding, almost black at its depths, as if to warn of the coming cold of winter. Surrounded by trees, many days it would bear a flotilla of multicolored leaves, a tiny navy fighting no battles, but with every unit destined for a watery grave. Then, for a time after the leaves finished falling, it sat and waited as if in anticipation of the storms to come. And they did come, not only the winter storms of December, but financial storms that rocked the world, and are sill rocking it today.

With the winter freeze, the pond turned glassy and green. Then the snow came and it merged with the shore in an expanse of white with no boundaries except a slight break in slope where the gently sloping black soils met the perfectly flat surface of the solid ice. On the occasional melts this winter, the pond would pull back from the shore briefly, but the center held. Today, with some melting from last week, the pond is the only thing that is solid white- the rest of the property is speckled with brown bits of vegetation breathing free after a long winter covered by the blanket of snow.

Ice is an amazing substance. Unlike the solid phase of other substances, ice is actually less dense than its liquid counterpart, water. This is why we can ice skate – increasing the pressure on it converts ice to water, the lubricant that lets us glide across the ice. This property is what makes glaciers possible, and is also critical to life. If ice sank in water, ponds and lakes and oceans would freeze from the bottom up, eventually becoming a solid mass. But it remains on top, where the sun can warm and melt it, and lets the fish exist below it, living through even the coldest of winters.

So life still exists, down there in the bottom of my pond. And it still exists in the economic engines of the United States and the world. And even though right now it feels as if spring will never come, it will, as certainly as it has every year. And when it does, life will surface. And the pond will continue to change, and in changing it will reassert its constancy.

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