The Pacific Northwest is a part of North America where the seasons are more subtle than other regions experience. We go from frozen to thawed to frozen to thawed all in the course of a few weeks as winter transitions to spring. Right now we have day time temperatures rising to the 50s but freezing at night with thick frost in the mornings.
This must be tough on the plants and animals that are trying to decide just which way the seasons are going. I know that my daffodil and tulip bulbs pushed their stems hurriedly from the ground a few weeks ago during a warm spell, but then as we fell back to colder days, they stood still, not gaining any height, probably reconsidering their hasty growth as they were nipped by frost. Our Haflingers started blowing coat too, but then needed it badly over the last few nights, probably wishing I’d glue those clumps of hair back on their bodies rather than piling it outside for the birds to grab for nesting material.
A long awaited yet familiar sound greeted me last night as I headed to the barn to do chores on a particularly balmy evening. The echo song of the Pacific Chorus Frogs filled the air, rising from the woods and wetlands that surround our farm. I stood still for a moment to soak up that first song that heralds spring–a certainty that the muddy marshes were thawed enough to invite the frogs out of their sleep and start their courting rituals. Winter cannot return anytime soon with any seriousness now. A frog’s version of Handel’s Messiah in the swamp–Hallelujah!
In the early mornings when I go to do chores I’m hearing bird song that has been absent for months. It used to be the only sound from the air were the Canadian geese and trumpeter swans honking as they’d fly over head, and occasionally a flock of seagulls flying inland for the day to feed in the old cornfields. Now there is an orchestra of songs from all around–Vivaldi in birdsong.
I know all the behaviorist theories about frog chorus and bird song being all about territoriality –the “I’m here and you’re not” view of the animal kingdom’s staking their claims. Knowing that theory somehow distorts the cheer I feel when I hear these songs. I want the frogs and birds to be singing out of the sheer joy of living and instead they are singing to defend their piece of earth.
Then I remember, that’s not so different from people. Our voices tend to be loudest when we are insistently territorial: our point of view above all others. I’m not sure anyone enjoys that cacophony in the same way I enjoy listening to the chorus of frogs at night or birdsong in the morning.
People are most harmonic when we choose to listen. Instead of sounding off, we should soak up. Instead of shouting “stay away–this is mine~”, we should sit expectant and grateful.
Perhaps that is why the most beloved human choruses are derived from prayers and praise. Singing out in joy rather than in warning others away.
I’ll try to remember this when I get into my “territorial” mode. I don’t bring joy to the listener nor to myself. When it comes right down to it, all that noise I make is nothing more than croaking in a smelly mucky swamp.
I hope we can all raise our voices above the mud, with clarity and hope. Then we’ll truly celebrate that new life has begun.