Spring peepers

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(HOST) Spring in New England is fleeting, but commentator Kristin Laine has found something of lasting value in this briefest of seasons.

(LAINE) I am a transplant to New England, but not, I’m afraid, a hardy one.

Ten years ago this June, I left the Pacific Northwest to marry a New Hampshire native. I’ve struggled with northern New England’s celebrated seasons ever since. Summer? Too sticky, too buggy, too hot. Fall is nice, yes, but winter is so long – six months with- out leaves where we live, in the eastern highlands of the Upper Valley. And spring? New England’s cruelest blow: It hardly exists.

Our first year of marriage would have been hard anywhere: money problems, house problems, a baby lost late. Still, it shocked me how my energy had drained. I worried that my heart could soar in only one place, and that place wasn’t here.

That first spring, I needed to see green, evidence of something living. In Seattle, crocuses come up shortly after the New Year. In New Hampshire, I waited through February, then March. In April, still surrounded by drab brown, dirty ice, frost heaves and mud, I begged to visit my old home.

That summer, we lost another baby. The fall and winter stretched long, dismal. Official spring arrived; I paid no attention. April Fool’s Day brought record-breaking snow. A heat wave followed.

One balmy afternoon, I drove the winding dirt road to our house, the car window open for possibly the first time that year. I slowed through a low-lying bog, where tires had carved muddy trenches next to gray snowbanks. Then I heard them: spring peepers – thousands of them, singing out in full voice. For the first time since I had moved to New England, my heart lifted. I turned off the car and listened to their trilling chorus, shouting out about new life and new hope.

A few days later, I heard a rasping sound coming from our beaver pond. It stopped as I drew near. Wood frogs speckled the surface, relaxed in the warmth, their legs splayed like blissed-out sunbath- ers on invisible rafts. Gradually, they renewed their song, a duck- like croak carrying the same erotic urgency as the higher-pitched peeper trill: “Pick me, pick me!”

After that, I built my days around these amphibians. I learned their habits. A neighbor told me that a frog surprised by a winter freeze can thaw, undamaged, once spring comes.

The mating dance in the pond ended, and the wood frogs disap- peared into the surrounding land. But they left behind eggs, water- logged balls of translucent jelly. I watched over them. Frogs meant something to me.

For eight years now, I have marked the coming of spring with frogs. A few weeks ago, I checked on the beaver-pond nursery. I held my son’s hand while his sister leaned close to the pollywogs wriggling inside their eggs. Last night, all four of us walked our road until the peepers’ raucous symphony surrounded us.

They’re hardy souls, and they’re teaching me to be hardy, too.

I’m Kristin Laine of Orange, NH.

Kristin Laine writes about the environment, women’s issues and education.

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