Two nights ago I heard the sound that makes my heart stop one day each year… The very first distinct buzz of the woodcock in the distant field, returned after his thousand-mile journey. It floors me every time. Elihu and I can never fathom that such a miracle occurs, and that we two are privately blessed to witness this mysterious event each year at this time… It’s in the narrow window of time after the sun has set, and just before it becomes dark that the woodcock makes his courtship presentation. Some years we’ve heard him buzzing for weeks, and I begin to worry that he hasn’t found his mate yet. And then, one day there is nothing. No buzzing comes from the field at sundown. One year, determined to find the hen on her nest, I criss-crossed the field, meticulously covering every square foot to the best of my ability – and patience – yet I found nothing. I hoped I had missed her – I prayed that Mr. had found his Mrs., and that she was setting dutifully on her clutch safely hidden from view in the thatch. Apparently she must do her job successfully each year, for the following year those of her kind always return. To our little field, one of the very last such habitats even remaining. For that reason alone, ‘our’ field is precious to us. And this is the one week of the whole year we feel its value most keenly.
The snow is not quite gone, but very close. By tomorrow I suspect that even the remaining icy mounds that remained today in some shady spots will have melted into the leaf litter. This is the very beginning of spring; hopeful, but still brown. So very brown, budless, leafless, shadeless, and still scentless. This is that small sliver of time in between… When the runoff has found its way underground, the mud has congealed, and the leaves from last fall give everything a messy, almost hopeless appearance. If one didn’t know what was around the corner, one might feel very discouraged. Warm sun, but no green to go with it. Soon though, very soon.
I had to pull over to watch the turtles in the pond – they’ve finally risen! Imagine, lying below in the icey mud, living months in torpor, half dead, half alive, waiting… How on earth do they manage such a thing? Migration and torpor really blow both our minds. We can never marvel over these mysteries enough for our satisfaction, and likely never will, as we will never understand it any better than we do now. We must simply accept them as miraculous events, and that will have to do. Joy rises in me when I see these fragile creatures have made it once again. Such relief I feel when I see that we, our chemicals and runoff, our plastics and our poisons, have not finally outdone the tiny turtles. Restored, I drive home to meet my day with a new sense of vigor and purpose.
The frogs began their chorus all at once, just night before last. These little guys – peeping en masse from a bog at the bottom of the hill – are sometimes so ceaseless and loud that I can almost wish they were grown and gone already… Tonight, I just stood at the edge of the woods, listening. Because that’s one of the biggest differences between winter and spring; in winter there is silence. In spring, sound. Every creature is saying right along with us, finally, finally, finally. Creatures of every kind are peeping in every way they know how, to confirm for us that spring really is here. Finally.
Thumbs Up gave me a good scare today. She had the strangest episode – like the chicken version of an anaphylactic attack. Her heart was pounding rapidly and her breathing was labored and asthmatic sounding, she squawked and squawked (not like her at all) and ran spasmodically around (I initially thought she was being attacked by a hawk from her movements and sounds) and so I held her for a long time to help calm her. She spent the day indoors resting. I really did think that she was going to die any moment.
Indoors, she rested on one foot for a long time, not moving at all. (At this writing, she’s doing much better.)
…but gone by evening.
And by tomorrow evening, there’ll be no more snow on the field. The woodcocks arrived a little earlier this year than years past, but still, they’re just in time for the warmer weather which is now here. Finally.