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Fresh Cut: Appreciating spring's symphony

Last week, I heard the frogs. Their chirps seemed to rise in a crescendo while the sun waned, welcoming the longer days and the promise of warmer weather.

Hearing their song, I was awash with the realization that this harbinger of spring has been absent from my life since moving to the city nearly a decade ago. While the changing of seasons in an urban environment are certainly beautiful in their own ways, I have been marveling at the way we are able to experience the natural world in the north country.

Hardly a day’s gone by since my February homecoming in which I haven’t witnessed the graceful flight of a raptor surveying the landscape for lunch, or the frosty breath of a deer grazing in a field, or the playful splashes of ducks in the open shallows.

It’s true what they say, that you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry. For me, however, it’s been more about reveling in characteristics of life in the lakes area I never got around to appreciating as a child.

But the frogs, I’ve always loved. Almost like a scent that launches you into a long-forgotten memory, the amphibious chorus sends me back to my childhood, to a time when we first opened our windows, while the earth slowly awakened from its seemingly endless winter slumber. The sweet perfume of thawing soil wafted in on the slightly chilled breeze, washing away the stale, recycled air of months gone by.

A swamp lies on the edge of the backyard of the house where I grew up, a source of boundless adventure for me during summers home from school. As soon as the snow receded from its edge and the ice disappeared, I would approach the murky waters, taking care not to sink too deeply into the unstable muck of the ambiguous border between land and sea. I stood there, listening for the first sounds of the frogs. Frogs meant frogs’ eggs, which meant tadpoles, the ultimate prize in backyard science experimentation.

Sometimes, I heard the call of the red-winged blackbird, a frequent visitor to the marshy corner of the yard. Other times, I heard nothing but the wind, barely audible through the branches only just beginning to sprout their yearly blankets of leaves.

No matter how quietly I breathed or still I stood, the frogs seemed to know I was there, silencing their song until I returned to the house.

Sometime in the early evening, the first few frogs — the leaders, I presume — would sing their introductory notes. Their calls were quiet with long pauses between, like the distant rumbles of thunder signifying an approaching storm. Soon, others joined in with their harmonies, and mere minutes later, the symphony reached a peak of sonic bliss, where it remained until it and the fresh air lulled me to sleep.

As the snow faded away in the backyard of the house where we now live, we discovered the low-lying marshy area down the hill contains at least two ponds. I’m not yet sure if they will remain throughout the summer, but I do know this: They currently harbor a collection of creatures I now consider to be my long-lost friends, creatures whose yearly triumphant return ushers in the green lushness that will surely follow.

Last week, I heard the frogs, and a part of me awoke.

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at Follow her at and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
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