Toads are smarter than frogs. Like all of us who are not good- looking they have to rely on their wits. A woman around the beginning of the last century who was in love with frogs wrote a wonderful book on frogs and toads. In it she says if you place a frog and a toad on a table they will both hop. The toad will stop just at the table’s edge, but the frog with its smooth skin and pretty eyes will leap with all its beauty out into nothing- ness. I tried it out on my kitchen table and it is true. That may explain why toads live twice as long as frogs. Frogs are better at romance though. A pair of spring peepers were once observed whispering sweet nothings for thirty-four hours. Not by me. The toad and I have not moved. ~Tom Hennen “Plains Spadefoot Toad”
I too am like a toad.
tending to plop or splat
rather than a graceful carefree
leaping into nothingness.
Someone has to hold down the swamp,
peering over the edge of the abyss
belching out an occasional thoughtful croak
while dainty peepers sing their hearts out
like so many sleighbells jingling gaily
throughout the endless night.
Poets who know no better rhapsodize about the peace of nature, but a well-populated marsh is a cacophony.~Bern Keating
To open the month of March, a warm southerly wind swept in overnight with heavy rain drenching fields and lowlands. The evening sounds were nothing more than constant dripping and trickling as downspouts unloaded and the hillsides drained.
Tonight, the peepers have awakened, brought out of the mire by tepid temperatures and vernal stirrings. Their twilight symphony of love and territory has begun, soft and surging, welcome and reassuring.
There’s a spring a-comin’, the peepers proclaim. No one can prefer the silence of the countryside when such a song can be heard right out the back door. Nothing can be sweeter.
Silence and darkness grow apace, broken only by the crack of a hunter’s gun in the woods. Songbirds abandon us so gradually that, until the day when we hear no birdsong at all but the scolding of the jay, we haven’t fully realized that we are bereft — as after a death. Even the sun has gone off somewhere… Now we all come in, having put the garden to bed, and we wait for winter to pull a chilly sheet over its head. ~Jane Kenyon from “Good-by and Keep Cold”
Every day now we hear hunters firing in the woods and the wetlands around our farm, most likely aiming for the few ducks that have stayed in the marshes through the winter, or possibly a Canadian goose or a deer to bring home for the freezer. The usual day-long symphony of birdsong is replaced by shotguns popping, hawks and eagle screams and chittering, the occasional dog barking, with the bluejays and squirrels arguing over the last of the filbert nuts.
In the clear cold evenings, when coyotes aren’t howling in the moonlight, the owls hoot to each other across the fields from one patch of woods to another, their gentle resonant conversation echoing back and forth. The horses confined to their stalls in the barns snort and blow as they bury their noses in flakes of summer-bound hay.
But there is no birdsong arias, leaving me bereft of their blending musical tapestry that wake me at 4 AM in the spring. No peeper orchestra from the swamps in the evenings, rising and falling on the breeze.
It is too too quiet.
The chilly silence of the darkened days is now interrupted by all percussion, no melody at all. I listen intently for early morning and evening serenades returning.
It won’t be long.