The way out here - The River Distorter

The night peepers

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 3/31/21

If you’ve lived here in the woods of the Upper Delaware River region for long, you’ve likely heard the night peepers. Every spring, they emerge as voices, rarely to be seen, in the …

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The way out here - The River Distorter

The night peepers

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If you’ve lived here in the woods of the Upper Delaware River region for long, you’ve likely heard the night peepers. Every spring, they emerge as voices, rarely to be seen, in the evening’s dying light and through the calm, still night. Night peepers have been around for as long as I can remember. If you wander through the woods, you can search and search for them without ever finding that voice that calls from out of nowhere. In choruses, they chirp and ring throughout the warm weather. But what if I told you that you have seen them? As you peer throughout the woods, straining to find the source of these sounds, you look directly past the obvious. For you “Lord of the Rings” fans this may come as a bit of fantasy-come-to-life as I reveal the truth of our forests here around the Delaware River: The trees sing.

Yes, our trees are alive, much more so than you might imagine. Although, as a side note, I would recommend not reading any poetry to burdock plants—they tend to be a bit clingy. But yes, our trees are a special sort, chanting as the light fades from one day to another, talking about their day, perhaps singing lullabies to their saplings. We call them peepers, perhaps you’ve heard your parents mention them? Some think they are tiny frogs that live in the trees, but certainly, these ringing chimes are too loud to be the vocalizations of such tiny creatures. These peeping songs that echo through the night to the point of near-deafening volumes are most assuredly the songs of the trees.

If you have doubt, consider this. If you’ve ever seen how maple syrup is made, you know that the sap is collected when the trees thaw and the pressure inside the tree is higher than the pressure outside the tree, so the sap runs out through taps into buckets and lines to be collected. In the warmer season, as we’ve begun to experience with this last week’s warm weather, all trees, not just maples, surge and expand from the warmth. In the winter, you can hear them moan and crack under the cold, which freezes and stresses them. Now in the spring, they can finally relax from the onslaught of winter weather. There’s a reason trees don’t grow as big or as tall in the arctic regions of the world. The tree’s souls are frozen, broken and, before too long, they simply can’t endure. But here in our fertile hilly country, with a briefer winter and a longer summer, they can let out the stress from the dark cold and as they do, they sing their pleasure. Perhaps you’ve been out in the early morning after a frost when the sun has come up and steam rolls off the trees. This is like a giant sigh as they breathe out from tensing through the cold. Indeed, the trees do sing.

I’ll make another observation for your consideration. Have you ever played music for your plants or sung to them and watched as they begin to grow better over time? Well, how does a great forest grow without anyone to sing to it? Surely, they sing to themselves. They may not be the walking, talking Ents from J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous series, but they are every bit as much alive. After all, song is akin to the essence of the soul, is it not?

Not convinced? Spend your own time walking amongst the musicians of the mountains, close your eyes and listen to their song. The night peepers are not just the tiny frogs your parents spun yarns of. These trees, our trees, sing under the great opera house of the night sky. The way out here the stars are the stage lights, the moon a spotlight, our forests the choirs of the earth. Why do you think Jonathan Charles Fox lives out in the woods at Camp Fox? He’s a theatre critic, no? In my humble opinion, there’s a reason he lives here in the great musical woods amongst so many natural-born singers.

Read more satirical fun in River Reporter’s April Fool’s Day section, The River Distorter. Find it on page 15 of the  E-Edition.

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