The Divine Hours of Lent

It happened again last night just at dusk–that first twilight of the frogs’ singing. Sam and I had come in from church and eaten a light lunch, before three friends called to say that they were out for a drive and were coming out to the Farm for a few minutes. Sam, who loves a party the way most kids love birthdays, immediately set the kitchen table for mid-afternoon drinks, easy snacks, and what he obviously hoped would be an afternoon of conversation. He got his wish, and we all had a grand Sabbath afternoon.
By five o’clock, however, it was time to think in terms of ending a good day. Two of our friends–the two who were doing the driving–had to go in one direction, while our other guest lived in quite the opposite direction. Because we really had let the time slip up on us, Sam and I said we would take Barbara back in her house in town, leaving Pat and Jo free to make their way on home in the other direction. The trip into the city was just a continuation of the afternoon’s pleasures. We even went in to Barbara’s house for a few more minutes, before Sam and I got back into the Subaru to make our way home for supper.
The sun had fully set and the soft darkness of early evening had settled over the whole farm by the time we pulled into our own driveway. I opened the car door, and it was there, all around us, everywhere, surrounding us: From the pastures came the singing of the cicadas and from the pond two acres beyond, the punctuating cries of the frogs.
There are two nights in farm life that matter the most every year: the night the frogs begin to croak and the night when the fireflies begin to mate, lighting the whole of our fields with thousands of frantically blinking lights bent on attracting one another into a reproductive orgy. The fireflies dance, usually in early May, and signal with their fervor that summer has officially begun, as far as Mother Nature is concerned. When the frogs cry, Spring has begun.
Ten days ago, we had driven passed Jones’ Orchard up on the highway beyond our farm. As we drove past, Sam said, “The pink is there,” and it was. The peach trees weren’t in bloom. They weren’t even faintly green, in fact. But the haze was there, like a halo or aura over all the rows and rows of them, as if some astigmatic or myopic painter had rendered a canvas more mysterious than photographic. So we knew.
Then last Friday our japonicas birthed out a bloom or two, and the early jonquils had opened Saturday afternoon before sundown. So we really knew. But knowing never quite prepares me for the thing itself. In all these years of living on this land, I have never got over the sheer wonder of it.
Up out of the mud and ooze of a half-dead pond, they begin their annunciation. Nothing…not cold or calendars or human contrivance or distraught circumstances can deter them. Life is, and it will keep its cycles and honor its own courses so long as time runs. And blessedly, in these weeks when “Alleluia” is denied to me, the frogs are driven to assert it. Out of the slime and wet of our winter pond, they raise their resurrection cry: We will be again.

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