Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Sounds of Spring

Over the last week my family and I have made our annual warm-weather pilgrimage up the hill, to our off-the-grid cabin in the hills of Otsego County, New York, up above Cooperstown. I am writing this on a laptop charged off our car battery, using an Internet signal coming invisibly from a cell tower miles away. We have not one but two iPods, and as of this weekend a battery-powered DVD player. This may not be exactly what Thoreau had in mind...

All the same, life in the woods in springtime offers revelations I can't imagine arriving any other way. There's nothing quite like venturing out with my children Cecilia, Andrew and Natalie to check their apple tree saplings as they grow buds, then leaves, then tiny red blossoms, still coiled tightly today but ready to burst forth. Yesterday my children caught their first neon-orange newt of the New Year, and then spent the next hour catching tiny flies to feed to it.

Yet it's the sounds that startle me with their springtime lust for life. There's the astonishingly loud, echoing pounding of the woodpeckers hunting for breakfast in the bark of old trees. This morning I heard the deep, rhythmic flapping of geese flying low over the metal roof of our cabin. And of course, this being near Cooperstown, we have the THWAPPP! of baseballs and softballs hitting leather gloves, or clinking off aluminum bats, as my two older children acquire a growing love for our National Pastime.

But it's at night, when human sounds quiet, when I feel totally at one with spring. There are owls hooting, nocturnal critters scurrying and the occasional coyote baying at the moon. And then, if I stand still, I hear a slow but sharp sound like the crinkling of paper, or a small waterfall maybe. It is tiny new plants, new life fashioned into green spears of fresh growth, forcing their way through last year's old dead leaves. Sometimes, in the light of morning, we can see the shoots of this new life stabbed right through the old.

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