Monday, April 21, 2008

Sounds of Spring

We all know of the visual signs of spring; the Green Man steps softly across the land, leaving his footprints in the form of tender new growth. We celebrate each new sighting of old friends and new.

I was reminded this week of sounds of spring, and I remembered how each is unique and as welcomed as those green sightings. I think the earliest sound is that of the peepers, the tiny frogs amongst the trees around the pond below me. Like the white blooms of the Bloodroot, they suddenly appear one evening as the sun begins to set behind the ridge to my west. They come like the Chinook comes to the great north.

I am reminded of my Akita dog Scooter. We shared spring sounds every year, me standing on my porch and him sitting on his favorite rock at the edge of my yard overlooking the pond below. He’d lift his great head and taste the breeze, then turn and give me that smile, knowing I too am in awe of the moment. The peeper sounds always came on a warm spring day after several preceding days of sun had warmed the mud and allowed the blood to stir within the little creatures that depended on that warmth to give them new life. As one they’d awaken and start to celebrate. The warm breeze would caress me and my sweet dog as it carried the sounds to our ears and the scents to his questing nose. I celebrate without him this year, but his memory awakens with the sounds we used to share.

More sounds appear as the days continue to warm. Soft gentle rain falling on new green growth and trickling into the downspout right outside my bedroom window, earth shaking thunder booming from the storms that echo across the blue ridges and rattle my windows. Mother Nature doing her spring cleaning, the creek singing joyfully as it flows noisily across boulders and the roots of ancient hemlocks.

The Eastern Phoebe that makes her nest under the eaves on the south side of my house every year calls noisily for her mate, her Fee Bee song among the first sounds my ears register in the early morning. The chickadees and house wrens add their high pitched cheeping to the crickets’ dance. I hear the hum of bees poking their heads into early blossoms of Ground Ivy and Cherry as they do their tireless work of gathering nectar and pollen.

And quite suddenly one evening the Whippoorwill calls. I am reminded of my childhood summers spent on my grandparents’ farm. I loved to walk up the long driveway with my aging grandfather and his pack of dogs to get the mail. We’d walk at sunset, after the heat of the day and watch the dogs chase rabbits while we were serenaded by the song of a Whippoorwill down by the creek. This year is no different. I start from my chair and sneak quietly to the window when I hear him. He starts down by the creek, calling sometimes a hundred times before he flies silently to a fresh spot to begin again. His call lasts for many minutes as he makes his songful way up and across the ridge to disappear from my hearing as he appears in someone elses’. I saw him one year, a soft gray brown shadow sitting on the stump of an old pine in the back yard. He flew when he sensed my presence and I felt fortunate to see him, as many never get that chance to spot the minstrel ghost of the forest.

Soon the call of the Barred Owls that make their nest high in an old grandmother hemlock down on the spring branch will punctuate the night as they too rejoice in the arrival of another spring, and they will lay their eggs and hatch their young and teach them to hunt among the trees. Sometimes a Great Horned owl calls too, but they are more rare.

I wait for the day the Broadwing hawks return and keen their thin cry high in the air as they circle, hunting for mice to feed their broods. I find myself missing the call of the great Redtail I have always loved, but the forest here is too thick for them and they stick to the tops of the mountain where the view and the hunting is better suited to their great wingspan. The crows caw their secret code to one another and gather in numbers to descend on every hawk they spot, trying to drive them away, their war with the raptors ancient and ongoing.

Spring brings back the Harleys too, awake from their sleeping in safe barns and garages to once again sail around the curves and add their own special thunder to the mountains. I smile as I anticipate the rumbling of my own sweet Pearl when I roll her out for a first spring ride. We always go to Grandfather Mountain on that first journey I like to call a Medicine Ride, riding along his aged back beneath the thunderheads that seem to be always present there.

I close my eyes and let my ears bring in the sounds of spring on Grassy mountain and my heart smiles.

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