pond

Pond is one of the most flexible words for describing a small body of freshwater. Uplift, landslides, volcanoes, and glaciers can create ponds, as can human beings and animals. Beavers are great ponders, and so are farmers and ranchers who dig them for irrigation and livestock. Glacial kettle-hole ponds such as Thoreau’s Walden and Cape Cod’s freshwater ponds are important features of the New England landscape. George Stewart tells us in Names on the Land that “native peoples” of the Northeast called ponds paugs and that this has resulted in felicitous redundancies such as Mashapaug Pond in Massachusetts. At least since 1641, the English have referred jocularly to the Atlantic Ocean as the “great pond.” And there is no end to the compound forms of the word: sagpond, millpond, fishpond, duckpond, pond life, pond lily, and pond yard to name a few. Regardless of size, location, or purpose, any pond can become the radiant and beguiling point of a landscape, even a muddy or algae-covered farm pond that’s nothing more than an isolated earthen water tank. Thoreau thought of Walden and nearby North Ponds as “Lakes of Light” in “which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

Michael Collier