On your mark, get set . . .

The frogs and robins are back.
I’m not suggesting the frogs hopped their way to Florida for the winter, but suffice to say they’ve wakened and crawled out of their muddy beds.
The robins, meanwhile, bounce around on my lawn and I apologize to them for the cold weather we had in March. But robins are hardy, they tell me, and don’t mind the challenges of a fickle spring.
I find myself standing at my kitchen window watching with admiration while the robins busily gather the goods to build their nests. Mrs. Robin builds a new nest each year because she can’t help herself.
Robins give me a sense of hope, tell me that warm weather will soon be here to stay, and add a bit of a bounce to my step.
Everyone gets restless at this time of year. Farmers can smell the soil with its particular waking-up fragrance—a smell that tells them to “get on the land.”
I know that smell; I grew up with it. It is as if the Earth is a living, breathing entity complete with a soul. I almost expected, when I was a child, to see the ground move and shiver, stretch and groan, a bit groggy from winter.
Farmers, with their eagerness, remind me of little boys playing with their digging machines in the sand once winter has given up the fight. I know farming is a business and corporate farms have changed the face of agriculture, but still the child is in there somewhere moving mounds and hooking up discs and cultivators, seed drills, and harrows to tractors.
Gardeners have seed catalogues out and are planning their plots with visions of colour and magnificence. Skipping ropes and bicycles, ball gloves, and golf clubs are all glad to have the dust shaken from them.
Calves and foals begin dotting the landscape and I can’t help but pause and admire their perfect newness.
And for all of this, robins seem to be the starting gun; the sight of them says, “On your mark, get set. . . .”
By the time the leaves are in full bloom and the lawn mowers have become a regular sound in the background, I forget to notice the robins; they have become ordinary, as so many of the wonders of spring become.
But the frogs? They sing and transport me back to days of pretend and climbing trees and searching ponds and puddles. I especially liked the big heavy frogs, the ones whose hop was mighty but slow, and I could pounce on them with reasonable accuracy.
Their slippery smooth skin tickled the inside of my hand and made me laugh right out loud.
“Toby,” the obvious name for a frog, was my friend for sometimes several days. I kept him in a box under my bed and fed him bits of bread, which he declined, and put some live flies in the box with him.
I’d release him after my mother found the box. That never went well—something about amphibians not belonging under beds.
“Toby” was relocated to the pond under the log bridge and begged to stay. I think I heard him singing; picked his voice from the Leopard Frog Choir.
Catching frogs and tadpole hunting occupied much of my springtime; wading in ditches and ponds, trying to keep the water below the upper limit of my rubber boots. Or just squatting at the edge, watching the frogs practice their synchronized strokes and balancing with their noses just above the surface.
I hear the frogs singing at night behind my house in the small temporary pond that summer will consume. I listen to their symphony and realize how quickly the days have passed; how the child I remember seems lost from me most days.
Those precious sounds and springtime images we gather on our journey and take along give us texture and shape, define us, allow us to breathe in, to start again.
Now . . . bring on the dandelions.
wendistewart@live.ca

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