Friday, February 29, 2008

"the true voice of spring"

As I mentioned a while back, I've been reading RTP's Wild America, written with James Fisher, and I promised to give you some excerpts. Here's one that's been percolating in my mind since I first read it a few weeks ago.

After dinner that evening we had walked across the damp fields toward the clear plaintive birdlike peeping until the myriad voices almost shouted at us from the dark pool and then fell silent. To easterners this nostalgic sound more than than any other--more than that of any bird--is the true voice of spring. It is a voice of resurrection: "Spring is come!" Everyone knows the voice and is glad, but few have ever seen the tiny inch-long singer. Tonight, with the peepers, there were multitudes of cricket frogs rasping out their strident notes, and here and there a green frog gave its single croak, like the plucking of a loose string on some instrument....

These sounds that pipe and trill from a hundred throats on evenings in spring are love songs of the swamp. They are ancient music, for the frogs sang their songs ages before the birds did; they were here first.... This orchestration of frogs and toads is one of the outstanding things about spring nights in eastern North America.

I read that passage again last night as I snuggled under my six layers of covers in bed, and I could almost hear the peepers and the toads and the green frogs playing their symphony; I could almost feel the warm breeze and smell the damp earth of the marsh. We leave our windows open in the summer, and each night we fall asleep to the sweet sounds of the peepers.

Once last summer, a friend came over and we went out on the marsh at dusk with flashlights to look for peepers. We saw a beautiful brown one, his throat blown up with each peep, his tiny body dwarfed by both his huge bubble of a throat and the loudness of his call.

Photo credit

Some people in PA are already hearing peepers, even though the ground is still covered in snow. I haven't heard any calls yet, nor have I seen any red-winged blackbirds, the other harbinger of spring on the marsh--though others in Central PA have seen some. I guess Penns Valley is a little behind the rest of the area, under its thin blanket of snow. But this passage, and the thought of the coming warmth and beauty and new life, makes me happy.


Mary said...

Hearing the peepers, yes, the true voice of spring. I've been hearing them for a few weeks already, Delia. Very early this year. In Maryland I didn't hear them until late March or early April!

Nice post. I love singing frogs.

Lynne said...

This is a beautiful post Delia. I wanted it to go on.

Susan Gets Native said...

I'm sitting here watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and staring at Alan Rickman right now.
Thought of you.

Rabbits' Guy said...

The peepers are active now here in the Northwest!

Dr. Zaius said...

Jeepers creppers - Where'd you get those peepers!

Mel said...

Nice post :)

dguzman said...

Mary--I hope they start singing in my marsh soon!

Lynne--thank you! I'm glad you liked it. That book is full of beautiful passages like that.

Susan--cool! My boy!

Rabbits' Guy--great. Give 'em a listen for me tonight.

Dr. Z--hee hee!

Mel--thank you for stopping by, and glad you liked the post.