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©projectnoah, 2019


I chase after a spring memory each year; it happened once. I have one witness.

When there’s frost instead of snow, when midday is mildly chilling, when the thaw is officially on, I wonder, is this the moment when spring has begun? I cherish spring and worry that the window will close before I savor its unfolding.

On those just freezing spring mornings and at the start of spring nights, I catch myself with the same fleeting thought – is my memory real? On those days when it’s safe to trust the almost imperceptible change of winter’s bleak light to the muted color of spring, the shrill chorus of peepers screams through the night.

The chorus is as loud as they are small. Some nights I get out of bed and open the window and just listen; I wonder where the peepers are and how it’s possible for the night sky to hold so much noise.  Through the days, I wonder how much springtime will remain before the peeper time passes, before fireflies and tall corn fill the sky.

One spring, well before I ever lived on a farm, I looked at my daughter, Natalie, and asked her to join me on a bike ride. At the time, curly-haired and maybe four years old, she followed me outside. We found a bike helmet and the attachment that allowed me to tether her tag-along, kids’ bike to mine.

We crossed a makeshift wooden bridge from our grassy backyard over a wet creek bed onto a lovely rail trail that cut through our village.

“Are you good back there?”

“Yes.” I quickly turn my head to see a quiet nod and with a push and a pedal, we first bob and then move through the spring’s bracing air.

“Natalie, I wonder how long it will be ‘til the leaves are fully out. Big. What do you think?”

I pepper my children with questions – sometimes it’s more a way of saying what’s on my mind than asking anything at all.

“Try to remember this tree and how the little leaves look now. Look at their color. These leaves will actually be different tomorrow.”

I don’t recall Natalie saying anything. I vaguely remember tightly wrapped leaves, the golden precursors to green – happily concluding that spring really was coming but not fully arrived.

I always ask my children if they can see spring springing – the muted color in the hills, the crocus bravely pushing through snow baked earth – hoping that maybe they will share in my pleasure.

We rode on, peaking through the bare limbs at neighboring houses, until we finally passed through to a portion of the trail shrouded from the dull rumble of nearby cars and homes.  To the right, a new noise emerged from the swampy wet pools around which bare trees hover.  And it was unmistakable. “Do you hear that Natalie?” Natalie, sitting quietly behind me peddled along. “Do you hear that noise?”

“What is it?”

“I think it’s little frogs. Really little frogs.”

“Wanna’ stop and see? Wanna’?  I do.” I braked our three-wheeled bike and we lay it down on the hard earth, hiking just a few steps down to the edge of the cold water. “Oh my god, do you see that little, little frog?”

“Where?”

“There.”

“Where?”

“There.” I could have been pointing at nothing, except I wasn’t. I was pointing at barely perceptible frogeyes. Spring peeper eyes.

“I see them, Daddy. I see them.”

“Amazing! Gosh.”

“Look daddy, there’re more. See there?”

Pairs and pairs and pairs and pairs and pairs of little eyes peered out from the shallows of the water.  The more we looked the more we saw. The more we saw, the more we wanted to see. The quieter we became, a once quiet peeping became loud, shrill. Peepers were mating and we were in the tent!

Finally, we agreed we had seen and heard our fill. It’s hard to know when it’s time to take a graceful exit from an amazing miracle. At the time, I figured, it was just a matter of paying attention to the time of the year and we’d surely see peepers up close again.

One spring day, when my daughter Natalie was six and learning to ride her own bicycle, we went on a ride – hardly very far, down our farm driveway. After hearing the shrill cry of peepers, I turned to her, “Remember that time two years ago on the Rail Trail when we saw the peepers?”

“Yes.”

We stopped to listen. We rode toward a puddle-sized pond the source of the peeping. Just as we put our bikes down and walked toward the edges of the water through the tall grasses, the peepers’ cry went silent.

“Stay still,” I whispered. “Maybe if we’re super quiet, we’ll hear them again.”

“Okay,” Natalie whispered back as best as a six year-old whispers.

The peepers resumed their chorus until we stepped again to find them.

It’s not so easy to see a peeper.

 

©Tom Meyer, 2019


          Tom Meyer, a BAWP TC since 1991, is a founding Director of the Hudson Valley Writing Project and Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at SUNY New Paltz. Among his hobbies are writing and reading poetry, bicycle riding, gardening, rooting for the Golden State Warriors, and hiking with his dogs and family (not necessarily in that order).

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