The sun sets and the moon rises. Tonight it rises, full, directly over Camel’s Hump, the moon so bright it shows the snow on the mountain’s summit. Peepers sing from the pools. Wood Frogs too.
Three Woodcocks call out before each of them ascends and dances in the just-light sky, circling until they drop back to the field. A Snipe whistles past. A Song Sparrow offers one last song for the day.
In the pink moonlight, the brown of the dead grass can’t be seen. The dirt left by the snow isn’t visible. The limb from the ash that fell this winter–it looks sculpted.
The cooling air smells of spring, of mud and maple buds. Over the hill a wood fire sends its smoke our way. Even the smoke smells of spring, stretching its heat as if to last until the fall.
The Barred Owl calls again. It has called all day. It cannot get enough of its bold pronouncements, calling in the light, at dusk, in the dark. Does it rest in spring?
I will settle in early tonight, my sleep restless lately, with worry and fear. Owl, put me to sleep. I will leave the window open a bit to hear you. And to let in the pink moon.
Green is coming out. In the yard, daffodils are blooming, white and yellow. Azaleas have popped. Grass is starting to stand up. Spring? I believe so.
I was up early, out to find birds. Otter Creek was flooded. Ducks were scarce at the usual spot by the boat launch. The boat launch was under water. But ducks were abundant in the flooded fields. Shovelers! Ring-Necked Ducks! Plus Mallards and Canada Geese and Wood Ducks. I saw my first Spotted Sandpiper of the year.
Heading home from the ducks I decided to make an extra stop. I walked through Williams Woods. Ruby Crowned Kinglets sang in the brush. Pine Warblers sang in the tops of white pines. A Carolina Wren teakettled far off. And green, trout lilies included, crept across the forest floor.
Clouds gave way to sun but then came back. It is cool but feels warm after those winter days. Rain showers now. I need to get out and pull some early dandelions and grass that is butting in on the flower beds. I might plant some more flowers. The bulbs I planted in the fall are peeking up through the dirt. Soon the world will be a chaos of plants.
Already I think ahead to mowing the field, in July. The meadowlarks are singing, along with Savannah Sparrows. Woodcocks, however, never came back. That is our spring mystery. Where did the Woodcocks go? Or did that final winter storm do them in? Soon we will crank up the lawnmower, and sleep on the porch, and swing in the hammock.
But now we need to enjoy spring–the dawn chorus, the sweet smell of new growth, the wild leeks in the woods. The world feels and smells new.
As the day lightened I stood on the edge of the field, listening. A Northern Cardinal called, then another. A Song Sparrow sang, just once. Two geese flew overhead, honking quietly, as if they needed to talk but did not want to wake anyone. I did not hear the woodcock again.
My wife had woken me to tell me she heard a woodcock, then tossed open the window and we heard it together. It bleated its noisy song, then rose in circles and dropped back to the field, its feathers whistling as it fell. Rain dripped off the off. I went outside to try to hear it again, but by the time I stood there listening, its dance was over.
The morning was warm enough to leave hat, gloves, boots in the mudroom. It smelled like spring–the earth thawing, grass stirring, mud, last fall’s rotting leaves. Ice, however, lingers in the shadows. On the north side of the house a triangle of ice nestles the compost bin. The compost–hard to stir as feathers of ice burst from its crumbling body. Between stones, ice frames pebbles. Below trees, logs of ice under logs of wood.
As I watched the morning, wind blew across the brown. The rain stopped, waiting for afternoon to start again. Robins chattered and crows cawed. But I did not hear the woodcock again. The warm day melted some of the hidden ice. When the sun set, rain again fell from the roof. Dampness seeped under the door. In the morning, perhaps, the woodcock will dance again. I will rise in the dim light, again, to listen.
I planted a bunch of fresh herbs yesterday and the day before. So far they are doing well. I hope they grow like nuts, both to provide some tasty additions to dishes to be prepared and to offer some beauty in the garden bed next to the house.
Last night we slept in our big tent, on the grass next to that same herb garden. My daughter slept well, turning in the night so she was sideways to the rest of us. The rest of us slept less well than we might. Despite that, we are planning to do that again.
We may not sleep well (then again, after one night of less than ideal sleep, we all might sleep like a charm) but at least we will be smelling the lilacs and the herbs. We will, hopefully, drift off with fine fragrances and the sound of woodcocks and snipes in the field. We had that last night, so two nights in a row? Sounds right to me.