One of my favorite essayists, EB White, while reporting to the New Yorker magazine from his farm in Maine one winter a long time ago, summed up his eagerness for spring with these words. “I will feel a whole lot better when I hear the frogs.”
Well, I have heard the frogs, and I do feel better.
The spring peepers arrived in early March this year, heralding the start of an unseasonably warm spell that lasted more than a week. I know this all too well, because beginning the first day of that warm spell and outlasting its ten-day stretch, I had a miserable cold. Unfortunate timing on my part — I enjoyed the fine weather through my open windows while I tried to rest and recuperate.
The spring peepers do not usually begin singing this early in the season. The night I first heard them, it wasn’t even spring yet!
One afternoon during the warm spell, I was at the playground with a couple of friends and our respective children. The kids wore shorts and t-shirts and – their faces flushed — kept asking for more water. Who could blame them? It was 85 degrees out. (Some of my other friends spent that afternoon at the beach. Yes, on March 22, the third day of spring.) None of us were complaining about the weather – a warm sunny day is generally welcome. But one friend commented how it “just felt weird,” and I concurred. Was this unusually warm and nearly snow-free winter just a freak happenstance, or was it a palpable example of the effects of global warming? I’ll leave that debate to the experts, but it certainly does make one think, no?
This spring marks the end of a particularly difficult year in my personal life — the breakup of my marriage; moving with my five year-old son across town to live with my parents (Abel is with his father half the week and with me the other half). After having lived independently, I found the return to my childhood home to be humbling, to say the least. But the benefits of moving home far outweigh any stigma or inconvenience. I’m a firm believer in the value of the multi-generational family, and we all are loving it here.
That night when I first heard the spring peepers, I was taken aback. I grew up in this house on the upper reaches of the Green Harbor River – there have always been a pond and wetlands out back; the sound of the peepers is deeply ingrained in my life experience. Yet living away for many of the past twenty springs, I’d nearly forgotten them. So when I opened my window that night, the sound was both familiar and completely new – and oh so comforting. Our definitions of home are comprised of so many tiny details – for me, this includes the keening of peepers in early spring.
Days pass, and then weeks, and months, and years. Everything changes – sometimes quickly, sometimes so slowly we barely notice it. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” If you are suffering, have faith that your suffering will not last forever – at least in the same form. If you are content, appreciate that contentment, knowing that it too is unlikely to endure.
I have been down in the muck, so to speak, here on the banks of my own little river. As difficult as it has been at times, I would not take it back. It has been a year of significant change, but – as is often the case — also considerable learning and growth. Spring arrives, and with it comes a sense of renewal – and gratitude.
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com