When I open my car door, the drive from work back to the farm melts away as amphibian voices surround me. I forget I-87 to I-90 to I-88 to US 20. Behind me, the dead-on-arrival dog has returned home. The four euthanized cats, each with their own wounds, may rest peacefully. The injured and sick and sicker and healing dogs, tucked into their hospital beds, will be tended overnight. Here, the evening light rouses the frogs.
I yank off my scrubs and pull on old jeans. My new rubber boots already feel like home on my feet. I often stay late at the emergency clinic, and in winter’s short days I never arrived home in the light. Tonight, I am home on time; the daylight is expanding like your ribcage on a slow inhale. Tonight, we are skipping bathtime and walking together towards the yearning noise.
Beyond our soon-to-be garden, we caress the downy grey willow buds. Stella swoons over them, so we pick her a fat fuzzy catkin, and she carries it for an hour, then keeps it for days beside her pillow.
Holding their high notes, spring peepers call us in waves. Just an inch and a half long, they introduce spring, blowing translucent bubbles at their throats then releasing their insistent, entrancing sound. Lower on the scale, wood frogs chuckle their deep quacking calls. We can picture their dark bandit masks over light mustache markings, although they remain hidden.
Working outside a few evenings later, we will watch a great blue heron parachute into our wetland, then two wood ducks splash down. We’ll hear a ruffed grouse thumping its wings, deep beats that we feel in our own chests. I’ll walk out under fierce stars one night—with Venus burning strong above the red Mars—and pause as two barred owls ask each other, “Who cooks for you?” Andrew will hustle the kids out the next morning to hear a tom turkey’s self-important babble from the woods.
On this after-work evening, all four of us meander around the wetland, immersed in sound. Occasionally, we can pick out the thumb-on-a-comb call of chorus frogs, above the peepers’ din. Sam leads us through and over patches of water, beyond the wetland’s outflow. At one point, he trips over a grass tuft. When I ask if he’s okay, he crows, “I’m great! Better than ever!”
I feel the same.