The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Peepers Piping April 9, 2013

Small signs of spring are beginning to appear in Greenfield these days; robins on the lawn, small patches of green along the roadside, and the very breeze itself now smells different… fresh, warm and clean…. and full of that sort of hope that really only comes with the promise of Spring. And last night, another important resident returned to confirm for us that winter was over. We even saw them with our own eyes as we drove back from the airport; they were crossing the road in the blackness as a light rain fell, coaxing them to move once again. When we got home and got out of the car, there they were. Only twenty four hours before, the night air had been completely silent, but tonight the neighborhood peepers in the swamp at the bottom of our hill had begun their chorus. Just like that. Absent one day, present the next. It’s a constant, high-pitched trilling sound, almost like a flock of chirping birds or maybe like a swarm of crickets… (I can remember some warm Spring nights in past years even being a little annoyed by them for their relentless performance!) The return of the peepers is to us as exciting and life-affirming as the return of the woodcock in the field just beyond our house. Irrefutable evidence that nature does continue to exist, in spite of the evidence being so hard to witness in our black-topped, fast-paced, I-padded world.

Torpor. What a word, huh? What a process, too. That’s the term for the kind of hybernation the little frogs in the swamp go through each winter. (Hummingbirds go into torpor each night.) The frogs hunker down into the mud and their metabolism, heart rate and body temperature drop to amazingly low rates. This is incredibly hard to get – I myself find my mind blown each and every Spring with the return of all sorts of creatures. In the middle of winter, the ground covered in white, I scan the landscape trying to imagine the thousands upon thousands of tiny creatures in just such a state, only inches from the surface. Alive, but somehow dead as well. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around. And so very astounding when you see it in action. No bugs, then lots of bugs. No frogs, then, well, thousands of em. And all at once. I can hardly fathom it.

O thank you little peepers for adding yet another dimension to the changing of seasons. Your songs echo throughout the hilly woods and give us some reassurance that things are as they should be.