Listening for Spring
I leave a window open on April nights and put my pillow close to that cold slice of air because I want to hear spring come back to this small clearing. Sometimes it snows, and I hear instead the sharp tick of flakes against the glass. But mostly, the sounds are new.
One night a flock of Canada geese flew north under the half-moon. I woke to their bugling from the south and listened as the birds crossed over the roof, close enough to catch the sound of their wings like a bow drawn back and forth across the bass strings of a cello.Maybe ten geese. Maybe fifteen. An uneasy silence followed as if the thrust of their heraldic flight had upset the air behind them, as if they had broken through the glaze of winter above my house and trailed spring's upheaval and promise.
After midnight, a porcupine climbed into the weeping willow by the frog pond and started to snip off the tender branches, sweet with running sap. I heard the soft plop as one branch, then another, fell to the ground. Lying under a pile of quilts, I counted the fallen branches before I forced myself up in the dark and turned on the kitchen light and stepped outside. The light sparkled on the icy grass beneath the tree. I was barefoot, wearing an old T-shirt. Another branch dropped as I walked in the dark to the driveway and picked up a handful of stones and pitched them in the direction of the tree. They bounced off the trunk and splashed into the frog pond through paper-thin ice.
In the moonlight I could see the dark blob of porcupine against the sky. It was pressed to the top of the trunk, twenty-five feet up, like a big irregular fruit stuck in the branches. I tossed a few more stones at the trunk. Back in bed, I listened to another branch drop. Willow sap must taste especially good.
An hour or so later, a loon flew over. It filled the night with one long loud cry. What that voice said was that ice is melting off the lakes, almost enough now to give the loons some open water.
Just before dawn a raccoon, risen from its restless winter sleep, began to sort through the shed. I must have left the door latch ajar. I listened as it tossed aside what was probably a wine bottle out of the recycling bin. Then the empty plastic compost bucket rolled across the shed floor. Then something heavy dropped. I wasn't sure. Maybe one of my son's winter boots.
Everything in that cold pre-dawn was exquisitely quiet except for this raccoon, the only soul in the universe making noise.