I attended a week-long festival last month, in Illinois. My housing was in a big yurt, with a clear dome at the peak. It was set amongst a ring of middle-aged oak trees near a small pond. Every night, I fell asleep to distant drumming from the fire circle and the loud chorus of frogs from the pond.
I didn’t know I was missing them, to be honest. Somehw I’d forgotten the spring peepers and the tree frogs and their wild mad trillings. Gone from my recollection were the warty and wonderful toads who lived in sideways terracotta flower pots. There were box turtles then, too, that required a springtime turtle patrol willing to slam on the brakes and press the button for the four-way flashers, leap from the car and move the slowpoke to the verge.
Frogs and turtles were so present, so plentiful that they were the backdrop of summers past.
Those profundo frogs in the pond took me back in time and place and my heart constricted to remember. I haven’t stopped for a turtle in years, haven’t sat in a rusty metal chair in the evening, watching lightning bugs, listening to tree frogs.
We’ve done this, this lessening of the natural world. We humans are responsible for these quiet summer nights, this uninterrupted travel.
Last night, I sat in a folding chair and watched the lightning bugs in their giddy blinking. There was a train whistle, music and laughter from the neighbors’ house, traffic noises from the bridge. No peepers, no profundos. Only a desperate silence that provoked such longing, such dreams of summers passed.