February 17, 2013

Maine Observer: Winter's chill reveals pond's perfection

As sea smoke rises on Casco Bay, Chebeague Islanders relish the prospect of outdoor recreation on flawless ice.


Extraordinary moments and places abound in our lives if we take the time to look. Four generations of Chebeague Islanders have gone to Sanford's Pond at this time of year, appreciating the spendid offerings of where they live.

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The first full week of February, with bare ground everywhere and single-digit temperatures overnight, a perfect opportunity arose to skate, play pond hockey, try figure eights or glide the smallest toddler on a first sled ride on hard, clear ice. 

This gift to the community, created by Sanford Doughty and his wife, Mabel, has lately been maintained by families that have grown up skating here. Warming hut maintained, firewood stacked, free skates, snacks, lights on tall poles, all provided for a community experience. 

Cars line the road to Chandler's Wharf. Young people eagerly seek this magical place for making memories that last a lifetime; they learn habits of volunteering to make a good community place. 

Some have grown up here to later skate on the finest rinks in Maine, played high school and college hockey at the best rinks at Bowdoin College or the University of Southern Maine. Some go on to figure skate in great arenas with thousands applauding. Nothing can top that perfect afternoon in cold air out on the pond in the middle of Casco Bay.

Weather is fickle here surrounded by the winter's warm ocean waters.  When a cold clear night lets air temperatures plummet, sea smoke rises on the bay, a perfect time for making ice on the pond.

The forecast might call for a huge nor'easter for the weekend; record snowfall amounts might blanket the coast. The next week might present the challenge of shoveling out the pond to reveal a narrow rink. Rain might penetrate the snow and make the ice bumpy and layered to crack in pocketed puddles on the pond. 

But on a perfect winter afternoon with bare ground all around, hard smooth ice on the pond, a curl of woodsmoke rising from the chimney of the warming hut and most of the island's children and some young parents gliding around Sanford's Pond on skates or sleds, a waning half-moon climbed from the open ocean eastern horizon while a gorgeous enormous golden sun disappeared behind the trees of Little Chebeague. 

Standing tall on skates, one might see the sun and moon and east and west across the clear blue bay waters, sunlight bouncing off the waves, mauve and azure streaks in the western sky, an extraordinary moment and place: synergy, a perfect memory for a lifetime.

Robert Libby is a resident of Chebeague Island.

– Special to the Telegram


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