The blanket of snow is spread over our winter land. Sound is muted beneath this whiteness. At times, here in our home on the eastern shore of East Silent Lake, the silence is so strong it becomes difficult to breathe. It seems the simple inhale --- exhale would destroy the perfect world within this Minnesota snow globe. But then there is a signal. The world itself stirs and breathes. The breathing of Mother Earth releases sound to paint the air.
Listen! Sit quietly, patiently next to the garden on the west side of the house. Did you hear that? The faintest rustle of mulch disturbed by the palest green leaf of a daffodil searching for the sun. Oh! And did you hear the red-winged black bird out in the swamp? Some people say robins signal the season, but we and the swamp birds know better. Soon that pair of geese will be returning to their wetland nest to raise yet another family.
I think that tomorrow the lake will give us a concert. See how the color has changed? That dark blue-green means we can see water moving below the sun-thinned ice. This breeze will definitely stir things up. How will you know? Oh child, think about how paper rattles when you crumple it up and how water spatters on a hot metal pan. When the lake begins to talk like that, then it is time. You will be able to hear a crack in the ice begin way over on the west side of the lake and end up right there at your feet. When there are enough cracks and the wind waves its arms like a conductor, then the ice will begin to move. Along the shore where it is the thinnest, small pieces will float and dance in the water, touching each other like crystal chimes stirred by a gentle breeze. Huge slices of it will boom against the rocks along the shore and other pieces will follow right behind making the music of kettledrums. And then it will all be gone. The lake will be back again with her winter white snow blanket put away for awhile.
No, the loons won’t be back right away. The water is still a little too cold for them. Don’t worry. When they do come back, they’ll rest for a short time after their long journey and then call out to say “helloooo”. The dock will be in by then and you can walk down to the end and call back, “hellooo looooons!”
Before that, you’ll hear another sound that most people aren’t around for. Just like the maple tree knows when the day and night are the right temperature for her sap to wake up and move, so do the frogs in the swamp! At first you’ll hear just a few peeps and think maybe it’s crickets making that sound. Then a few days later that wetland will burst with frogs singing to each other, trying to find their partners. Oh yes, it’s pretty – at first. Sometimes by the third day of it, though I wish their cacophony would cease and desist. For me, it’s all too much racket after a long winter of silence. Yes, it does stop just as quickly as it started.
That’s a hard question: what is the last sound of spring? I’m not sure what that is; you’ll have to help me listen for it this year. I do know that the first sounds of summer are that high-pitched whine of a mosquito followed by the slap of a human hand!