I saw a turtle today with a head the size of my fist. The ice in the pond is at 90% melt. Only a thin strip remains through the heart of the center, circling up around the dock where it's a few inches thicker (where it was once at its thickest). It was fifty degrees and sunny, so I was taking a walk along the shore, looking for signs of spring, when a loud splash startled me. I swung around, and surfacing ten or so feet out from the widening circle of ripples was a head the size of my fist. First just the head and two eyes bobbed on the surface, and I froze. Then the rest of the body came into view,black and glossy. He was swimming in reptilian fashion, reminding me of a butterfly stroke, heading straight for me, and I watched in amazement. Then he dove and his tail flicked through the air, thin and curled like a possum. The length of that tail surprised me, and the whole thing was like a dream, and I wondered if it really was a turtle. It looked more like a baby Nessie, something spawned in Loch Ness and then lifted into the atmosphere and dropped from the sky by a trickster into our little farm pond in the middle of the Great Lakes basin. He dove and was gone. I waited but he didn’t resurface.
I walked around the rest of the pond, through the narrow inlets and the dead grass, past the birch trees and the small sunken fiberglass boat that someone forgot to beach, listening for another splash, but there was nothing. Life has not yet returned to the pond, the dragonflies and water striders of summer have yet to emerge, and the catfish and bass are deep in the bottom, slowly awakening to the freeing of the pond from its winter ice. The turtle rules the water in March. He has it all to himself.