If you could see this darkness, feel this night,
heavy under clouds, dripping with dew,
thick with frogs and moths, drawn to the first blushing blooms of milkweed,
you would know what it is to walk here.
It’s been weeks since I have visited my pools, as in the probing visit of this night--
most days just a cursory glance, as I walk on to the woods,
following the wings of dragonflies,
watching birds high in the trees above.
Yes, the shallow water remains.
And, though almost choked with a mat of green snarls encroaching from every edge, the deep, clear, dark water sustains life, napping through the sunshine of a hot summer day.
But, tonight, when, even through a closed window, air conditioner groaning beneath this blanket of humidity, frog song penetrates to within a brick house, I cannot help but wander there.
Every bit of this field is calling.
Orange eyes aglow, hundreds of buff-colored moths, feathery antennae curling back and forth, feed at the heavy heads of grasses, bending their arching stems low to the ground, and cover the large, rosy globes of milkweed blossoms, strong and sweet with nectar.
The heat from a very warm day has remained into the night. Glass beads on every blade of grass glisten with dew. My bare arms as well, quickly covered with a layer of moisture, soon tingle with an itch from every flying insect drawn to me, my light a beacon into blackness that readily swallows it. Even my face, misted and framed in curls brought on by this bath of steaminess, especially interesting to the smallest moths, darting in darkness past mouth, nose, eyes and ears.
A head net, next time--I must remember that.
Waist-deep in vigorously growing poison ivy, I wade through green to the pool’s edge, my tall spotted boots stepping carefully into the cool water, the soft, woven mat, broken in places perfect for even the largest of frogs to hide in wait.
All across the surface of the smooth water, small mouths rise to grab air, then disappear with the flash of an ivory belly to hide themselves in layers of brown detritus, inches deep beneath my feet.
Shapes I recognize easily—and was hoping to see tonight, caught in the beam of my light through cola-colored water--salamander nymphs, still sporting gills like Elizabethan collars, but soon to lose them, strengthen new legs and walk off to the woods. Having started the season dry, this spring has brought heavy and frequent rains—a good chance that the water will remain weeks longer, and another generation graduate to lives on land.
The movement of a winding, striped form beside my toe startles me. And, though I know he should be here, I’ve never seen him--a Northern Water Snake, browsing the brown bottom, rising to look across the surface. Then, equally startled by finding me in his pool, he dashes below and disappears.
From the center of this basin, I am surrounded.
First by the ring of dark water, then by the green at its edge. Framed by small Red maples, their toes wet.
It is as if I am drawn into a fanciful scene, where all possible life converges in a single place for a moment--the deer, rabbit, and raccoon, beside bluebird, mink and snake, while fish, frog and turtle swim.
A snapshot, so complete, yet unlikely.
Yet, as I move toward his fervent call, raised to the night air, as others do the same, I am sure, for this moment, I am witness to a collision of lives not always like this.
Stirred from quiet rest, postured to project,
their song from every tree,
“Welcome to my world. We’ve been expecting you!”