Tiny frogs freeze and are resurrected.
The spring evening air fills with the sound of spring peepers as the last of the snow melts. That background chorus is the soundtrack to walking in the woods.
I lived by a large city park, and it was great to step outside my door onto walking paths. The park’s natural features included streams, ponds, forested acres, and open fields.
In my years walking past low-lying ground that became temporary ponds in spring, and wetland sludge that firmed into bog, I never saw a spring peeper. The little frogs magically grew quiet as I stepped towards their hiding places.
Spring peepers’ Latin name is Pseudacris crucifer. The crucifer part of their name refers to the brown lines of a cross that marks their backs, a cross-bearer.
The delightful chirping is driven by courtship. Male frogs sing loudly and rapidly in order to attract a mate. Their throats balloon out, pouch filling to emit a sound many times their size that carries throughout the wetland.
The most amazing part of a spring peeper’s life cycle is that they can freeze in winter. They burrow into leaf litter or dig under logs or similar hiding places, and their blood contains an anti-freeze-like substance. In the northern states, they endure days of below-zero weather.
They thaw in spring, a resurrection of sorts, and come back to life.
We are in the closing days of Lent, the closing days of March. Early spring is about the thaw, life returning. The liturgical cycle is more part of my past than my present, but it resonates in the seasons. It was dictated by the seasons.
In older age, we’ve learned this cycle well. We’ve all been hibernating a bit, holing up. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who burrows into my litter. At least my emergence will have little to do with eggs.
But I might buy some eggs, and some egg dye, to celebrate the rituals of Easter with my grandchild.
Cross-bearing, hibernation, re-emergence, cycles. As we age, the cycles are familiar, but they never grow old.