It is now past mid January, moving toward February when spring hopes eternal. Do you sense it too? Sunday I could smell it in the air; yes it was drizzling, dark and drear, but I caught it on a passing breeze, a slightly sweet familiar aroma of the promise of daffodils, hellebore and forsythia. With the anticipation of spring as my companion, I await the return of the cacophony of sex- seeking frogs in the grasses and willow along my winter creek. Sometimes as early as late January, usually about the first week of February, they are my surety that spring will once again bloom. The frogs of my pasture have eluded me for all my 17 years on this property. There is at least 300 feet of skinny winter creek along the south edge of my pasture, chock full of lusty, throaty ribbiting frogs. At the peak of their wild ribbiting symphony, in the darkness of night, I stealthily pad across the pasture, flashlight off but in hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of their tiny greenness. How do I expect to see a tiny green frog in the dark of night in a dark, skinny creek? Closer, closer, ribbit, ribbit, closer, closer I pad, ribbit, ribbit, the whole lane east to west is vibrating ribbits. Closer, closer, ribbit, ribbit. With no warning, silence. Complete silence. I flash my light on the water, it is still as a board and not a frog to be seen.
I feel them watching me, smirking while they hold their next ribbit. I turn, step away from the edge of the creek, take a couple steps back to the farm and hear one ribbit from way down the lane, another ribbit about halfway up the lane, then silent. As soon as I get to where they determine is a safe distance away, they start again, as if a symphony conductor has tapped his baton to start tuning up, an incongruous, discordant melody. As I retreat farther away, happily defeated for another year, they fall into their call and response rhythms of vocally seeking their perfect frog mate.
During the summer, quite by surprise I will cross paths with a frog or two in the garden lazing under a bean leaf or lettuce leaf. A creature as big as my thumb with a big Paul Robeson voice has defeated me once again. I am ahead of myself with anticipation . Maybe this year….