Ethereal Beauty of the Maritime Forest

Coming Full Circle

It’s 11 PM and I’ve just returned home from visiting a friend. Tonight, as always, when I turned down the narrow dirt road leading to my house I was struck by the ethereal nighttime look and feel of the Maritime Forest. The road is not much more than a path, barely wide enough for two cars to pass in most places. There are no street lights here – indeed there are only five houses in this secluded part of the Outer Banks – and coming home after dark requires high beams, which not only light up the road, but illuminate the thick canopy of trees that intertwine and overhang the road. The experience is more like moving through a living, breathing tunnel than driving down a road and I am suddenly swept away by the memory of my very first night in this house.

It was July of 2004. That night, I also came home late, and I remember thinking how spooky it was driving down that long, secluded road after dark. There had been a heavy rain that evening and I dodged mud puddles in the road as the trees overhead splashed big, fat drops on my windshield. I wound my way up the unfamiliar 600-foot long driveway, eased my car into the garage, and climbed the two flights to my master bedroom.

I opened the windows and climbed into bed, delighted at the prospect of falling asleep to the sounds of chirping crickets and twittering birds. A few moments after my head hit the pillow, thousands of frogs began croaking simultaneously, as if queued by some invisible conductor. For perhaps a quarter hour they sang, sometimes reverberating with deep and mellow tones and other times swelling to a crescendo of treble notes until, as suddenly as they had started, the entire chorus fell silent. Thank goodness, I thought, now I can get some sleep. But that was not to be. A minute later, the entire cycle began again. Throughout the night, they started and stopped, making it impossible to sleep.

After that first night I never heard the frogs again. I often wondered if they had disappeared, or if I had just grown so used to them that I no longer noticed when they sang. Something similar had happened to me when I lived in Puerto Rico. On the first night in my new apartment I discovered that the neighbors had roosters. They started crowing well before dawn, and one in particular decided to roost beneath my bedroom window, cock-a-doodle-dooing every couple of minutes until I finally got out of bed and chased him around the yard with a broom. I’m sure the neighbor’s roosters crowed every morning after that, but I never heard them again. I just grew accustomed to the sound. Had the same thing happened with the frogs?

Shortly after arriving home this evening I opened my bedroom windows to a frog serenade. You see, it rained today – no, it poured today – after a long dry spell. For months the frogs have been hiding, buried deep in the swamp mud, conserving what little moisture was still held by the earth. But tonight, they are exulting. They are basking in the luxuriantly wet marsh and making their pleasure known. Their chorus is deafening, but something tells me I will have no trouble sleeping tonight. All things come full circle.

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