Listening to one spring peeper singing

This past weekend, J and I walked at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, where we heard a single spring peeper singing. It was a lonely sound, but if one peeper is singing by day, there must be many more singing after dark.

Whenever I hear even one spring peeper, I think of May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep. When Sarton first moved to New Hampshire, someone told her the winters are interminable there, but just when she’d give up all hope of Spring ever coming, she’d hear spring peepers. Hearing the peepers is a sign Spring would eventually arrive.

Yesterday was the first day of astronomical spring, and although there is no snow on the ground, the mornings are still cold. I haven’t worn sandals yet this year, but I will, eventually. I might doubt the arrival of that day, but the spring peepers know.

Tiny flowers

One of my favorite passages in May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep describes the exhilarating thrill Sarton feels the April after her first winter living in Nelson, NH, when out of the blue she hears her first spring peepers:

Wide-open crocus

Then one evening I heard a slight, shrill, continuous singing, a little like distant sleigh bells. And I suddenly remembered what Tink had said when we sat on a pile of lumber eating lunch that summer day–“The peepers! Wait till you hear them when it seems as if spring would never come!” The long wait was coming to an end.

Tree flowers

I’ve never heard spring peepers around our house here in Newton, MA: our immediate neighborhood is too dry, lacking the vernal pools that amphibians need for their annual courtship rituals. But there are plenty of ways we folks in the Boston suburbs know that spring is coming, even in the absence of singing frogs. Today when I took Reggie outside for a mid-morning bathroom break, I noticed one of our backyard trees is blooming, and as I paused to look overhead at its tiny, nondescript flowers, I heard the suburban equivalent of spring peepers: a lone Eastern phoebe calling dryly–nonchalantly–from a neighbor’s yard. I didn’t see this newly arrived solitary singer, but I know he’s there, back north after a winter spent elsewhere: a sign of spring singing in the sun.