Friday, March 26, 2010
I step into my tall wading boots, slip under the cover of a long dark jacket, and ease beneath the slender strap of the light which will hang from my shoulder. At my hip this large beam will freely swing, slung like a purse, as I walk hands-free exploring the edge of Little Pond in the hours approaching midnight. My final garment-- the heavy winter hat, one that would appear to be far more than is needed on this evening late in March, I casually stuff into one gaping pocket. For it is warm and mild, a night lit in moonlight revealing a faded field bathed in a mist, thick and welcome on my face.
I step out into the night, where from across the yard, the frogs are calling.
Like distant sleigh bells, the ring of spring peepers drawn to the basin of Little Pond sounds sweet and gentle, a light dusting of sound floating with ease on the heavy night air. I walk with each step, closer, down the path. And my light reveals the sudden retreat of hundreds of night crawlers, each shrinking back into its small hole as my footsteps approach their 8 to 10-inch emergence onto the lawn. In this warm and damp night, they have risen to revel amidst the short dew-studded grass before tunneling deep, beyond the reach of any summer drought. From the woods beyond Little Pond, a barred owl calls, and calls again.
I cross the berm into the shallow water of this vernal pool, 30 feet across and almost perfectly round. The sweet ring from small frogs mounts now with such volume that above it no other sound is heard. From my pocket, I retrieve the heavy hat and tug it snuggly down, covering my ears—a muffler against the din that has become an almost painful roar.
With a sweep of my light in a wide arc from side to side across the pool, the tiny tree frogs are hushed in an instant, surprised into a silence that quickly fades. In seconds, the first brave soul perched and projecting from a blade of grass, calls out into the night once more.
And the uproar begins again.
These first frogs of spring, at any other time buried in the depths of the woods or under the cover of tall field grass, now stare back at me from the cool water of Little Pond. With my light, I have stepped into their darkened world.