In a summer punctuated by alerts from the Sharktivity app, the Cape’s 1,000 lakes and ponds offer freedom and peace of mind.
On a balmy summer evening, I shut my laptop around 6:00 and walk over to Spectacle Pond, a kettle hole pond in East Sandwich. The olive-green water merges with the color of the trees on the shore.
Happy to feel sand under my feet, I walk steadily into the warm water. Muddy-bottomed lakes, with the possibility of lurking worms or eels, do not appeal. I swim past the dock, past the raft, and keep going. The water is clear for a few feet below the surface before it descends into murk. Slivers of golden sunlight pierce the rich green here and there.
The water is warm no matter how far out I swim. I get halfway across the pond before I realize no one knows I’m out here, which doesn’t seem like a good idea. I turn around and start toward the shore, floating on my back in water that feels as thick as melted syrup. The powder-blue canopy of the sky is marbled with fluffy streaks of white.
I stay in for more than an hour, floating and swimming with ease. Later I go to sleep with my hair still wet with pond water.
I grew up swimming in a setting like this. My mother, sister, and I, as summer residents of Dennis, spent nearly every day at Scargo Lake, even in the rain. (My father stayed behind in our rented cabin to work, joining us later for an evening swim.) We packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in brown paper bags to eat at noon. My mother read book after book sitting atop a threadbare bath towel on the rocky sand. (She was never one to fuss with beach things.)
This summer seemed an ideal time to rediscover the quiet pleasures of swimming in fresh water on the Cape (even though a small number of ponds and lakes are being monitored for outbreaks of algae and bacteria). At least once every day, the Sharktivity app pings, alerting us of another shark sighting, provoking a lot of unease. We haven’t arrived at a solution that works for people as well as the vulnerable species. With the official warning not to swim in water that is more than waist deep, many people are choosing to stay out of the ocean.
Another evening I come to the pond armed with my neon-yellow swim buoy, an inflatable bubble that marks your presence so that boats stay away. You can rest on it if you get into trouble. It gives me peace of mind. I swim across to the other shore, near Camp Hayward. I float and rest a bit before heading back.
Swimming across Scargo was the highlight of my summer the year I was turning 9. My mother and I swam while my father and sister sailed next to us in a Sunfish. Along the way, we encountered a large mother turtle with a few babies. That image has never left me.
This evening I watch as toddlers wearing water wings splash in the pond’s shallows. Adults watch from the beach, but not super-attentively. Slightly older kids jump off the dock over and over.
At the ocean, there is the undertow and, now, sharks. These require vigilance. Ponds offer freedom and ease — especially this summer. There’s already a slight chill in the air. Colder weather is not far off. It’s hard to imagine the sharks ever leaving the Cape now that they’re here. How fortunate that the Cape’s 1,000 ponds and lakes will be here, too.