Springtime Serenade

Late afternoon. Close, black clouds with patches of blue between wander across the sky. When the blue comes, so does the sun, lighting up the vast underneath of the clouds and hitting the ground at a flashing slant. The ground seems to glow from beneath. The peepers, after a few days of reliably above freezing weather and some soaking rain (which filled up the wheelbarrow and the goat/pony water bucket and deepened the paddock mud), have been singing through the afternoon, joining the clacking wood frogs. In some weeks, once we have warm afternoons, the toads will begin to trill, which  may be my most favorite of all the spring sounds. There is a place on Montgomery Road heading towards Westfield where the most amazing frog sound (of all time!) can be heard. It is tropical sounding, with zipps and whistles, wheedles, and squeaks, rasps and chirps. On either side of the road, the marsh stretches out, crisscrossed by slow rivulets.  I have recorded this cacophony over the past two years and would love to share it with someone who might be as stunned as I. What mysteries these amphibians are, what must it be like to grow legs and arms, lose the ability to breathe beneath the water, and fill one’s newly inflated lungs with oxygen (is there ecstasy involved? discomfort? pain? excitement? Is it itchy, growing legs)? Bullfrog tadpoles live for years as such before they grow appendages and lose their gills, hop about at the margins of the ponds and guard their home territories. As “adults” they set up groups called leks that remind me of exclusive male clubs from the Victorian era). I particularly love the 1 to 2 year-old bullfrog tadpoles. They remind me of grazing cattle with their wide set eyes, and taciturn, slow-moving herds. They congregate in the sunny shallows of a southward facing bank on a warm day in May, munching on immersed  field grass… But now, in April, it is all about mating, and getting to the water. Singing love songs, splashing, clambering around in the flooded meadow. To be stalked by the herons who wander the field like thoughtful poets. Or by the blue belted kingfisher who flies sharp eyed, trilling up and down the brook.  I should work right now, but the sun has come again, the little blue Scilla, are all glittery on the lawn. There are a few snowdrops left, and only one crocus I can see that is still blooming. Spotted trout lily leaves crowd the paths through the woods, making it difficult to step. Spring beauties are opening and the tiny yellow wood violets are in bloom. This morning just before dawn I listened through an open window to the first bird song of the day: the screech of a phoebe. The air came into the room in cool fresh drifts. Far away a woodpecker drummed a love song. A flock of geese barked in the distance. A Carolina wren warbled her watery notes.