the cold months are a time of silence. the bird feeders sustain a quiet buzz during the precious few hours of daylight and sometimes there is coyote song on the wind or an owl mourning in the forest during the long hours of the night. The distant sound of a train whistle in the valley crawls up the hillsides an hour before midnight. but, generally, the savage garden sleeps through it all, tranquil and mute.
it takes a minute to get used to all that snow-hushed nighttime quiet after a summertime roar of birds, bugs, and the shrill alien trill of toad song.
then, louder than summer or fall, is spring, as every dang thing bursts out of sleep and starts making a noise. it starts slowly with the chickadees whistling “feee-beee!” then begin the tentative chirps and quacks from the vernal pools while the sun shines on the ice-crackled water. in a matter of days, both day and night are saturated with sound as the birds make love and war, the frogs court, and the ruffed grouse menfolk vibrate the hilltop with their bass drumming.
by may, i don’t notice the perpetual noise unless i sit and think about it, but april is an assault: robins plink-planking, spring peepers piping, wood frogs quacking, migratory geese complaining, coyote parents yipping and barking, snipe whistling and ululating, sparrows puncturing their sweet little arias with weird buzzing growls. the urgency in the cacophony is both exciting and irritating. i vacillate between longing to gulp it in in great, thirsty draughts and wanting them all to shut the fuck up already.
every season has its harbingers and rhythms, but i confess that i ignore the ones that don’t interest me: summer is for working, fall is for mourning, winter is for sleeping. but spring is for hope. it’s the great dawn and i feel the cadence of it early and often.
it thrums through the shedding of beasts: the transformation from round, furry ponies to sleek, shining horses; from goats like mangey pompoms to compact little caprines. i find hanks of coarse hair in the meadow where deer have pulled out mouthfuls of their itching winter coats.
it crackles up from the ground in every texture that nature can muster: soft, dainty grass; wild, hairy weeds; the often-phallic sprouts of domestic perennials; dancing ephemerals in the dappled light of the woods. the trees flower languidly and then green up seemingly overnight. one morning, you wake to leaves and you have a dark dream memory of the music of their emergence.
it is punctuated by the “check!” of red-winged blackbirds, the “chit!” of rose-breasted grosbeaks, the dog-call whistle of the cardinal, and the sweet, plaintive, and ghostly song of the wood thrush.
there is a fierce and joyful music to spring that plucks all my strings, makes me mad and euphoric and dizzy with anguish. i want to dance to it day and night with my arms sunk up to the elbows in the warming soil, my skin drizzling blood onto the ground, the sun crackling my tender skin to a wanton scarlet and lifting the animal musks from my pores. it is fearsome and alluring and deadly and i will dance to that pulse until it softens to the languorous melody of summer or i drop dead in mid-step.