“Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps. When, formerly, I have analyzed my partiality for some farm which I had contemplated purchasing, I have frequently found that I was attracted solely by a few square rods of impermeable and unfathomable bog – a natural sink in one corner of it. That was the jewel which dazzled me…why not put my house, my parlor, behind this plot, instead of behind that meagre assemblage of curiosities, that poor apology for a Nature and Art, which I call my front yard?”
-Henry David Thoreau, 1862
I often think of this favorite quote of mine from Thoreau around this time of year. For this is the time when we anxiously await the awakening of our landscape, with the familiar sights and sounds that arise. Chet Arnold wrote last spring about some of his favorite harbingers of spring, witch hazel and wood frogs. For me, it is the American woodcock and the spring peepers. The woodcock arrives first, sometime in late February or March. If you have fields and woods near your house, you might have good habitat for these fascinating birds. Listen for them at dusk, where you might hear the “peent” calls of the males on the ground-it almost sounds like a short buzzing. Then watch as they fly straight up, with their wings whistling, and wait for them to free fall, seemingly out of control, calling all the way down to the ground. They land very close to where they lifted off. It is an amazing display, with the intention of attracting a mate. I have been waiting (ankle deep in snow…) every evening to hear them near my house, but nothing yet. I just saw a report this morning that someone in Windham had seen one though, so it won’t be long!
Then in April sometime we are greeted with the spring peepers. If you are lucky enough to have a wet area near your home, you will likely hear the peepers starting at dusk and going until dawn. If you have a large wetland nearby as I do, the chorus will be almost deafening at its peak! Warmer days are close at hand when the peepers emerge from their long dormancy.
For me, I measure the year by what is happening around me: the sounds, smells and sights of the environment just outside my back door. Although this horrible winter has dragged on endlessly, the sun is higher in the sky, the days are getting longer, and I know that soon I will be hearing the sounds that signal the annual regeneration of life all around me. And although I do have a small “meagre assemblage of curiosities” around my house, I am fortunate to have many more jewels to dazzle me nearby!