Walking outside into the darkness I could hear sounds of the night around me.
Peeper frog after peeper frog croaked and made their presence known. The chirps of crickets, the distant hoot of an owl, the final musical songs of various sparrows, finches, and warblers about to settle down for the evening. They all combined to make something of a natural chorus, more musical to my ears than any band.
Within just a few moments the final blazing reds and oranges of the setting sun disappeared from the far horizon and complete, black darkness engulfed the landscape.
And then, out in the sea of darkness, a blip of light. And then another, and another. Fireflies!
The tiny instants of light in the blackness ignited memories of childhood. For a moment I was a curious 10-year-old again, watching the fireflies dance in the night.
I hadn’t seen them in a long, long time. And then it occurred to me … I had not been looking.
I suppose they had been there all along, but over the years I lost the ability to see them. I was too busy, in too much of a rush. Or maybe I had seen their glow from time to time and simply paid no attention.
This time I did pay attention, and it was a good feeling. It was nice to see them again, blinking here, disappearing, and then suddenly reappearing a short distance away. There was something comfortable about it all.
I got to thinking that the fireflies were not the only things that had been missing. Many old friends from childhood had vanished because I had gotten older and stopped seeking them.
Under boats pulled up on the shore, a boy could find frogs, and in the boats that were flipped over, snakes warming themselves.
In the bulrushes bullfrogs resided, their deep, throaty roars giving them away. My childhood was pure joy, spent finding and catching frogs of every size. As I grew up, of course, we parted ways.
It got me to thinking that we are blessed to live in an area where wildlife is a constant neighbor, a “Backyard Serengeti” of sorts. Wild creatures abound if we take the time to look.
Common, of course, are the wild birds, those beautiful little splashes of color, from scarlet cardinals to golden finches and indigo buntings. Robins, bluejays, warblers, grosbeaks, chickadees, blackbirds and many other varieties are frequent visitors.
My favorites are the mourning doves that greet the pre-dawn with their soothing cooing sounds.
I have found while walking our dog each morning around 5 a.m. that we will occasionally exit the house to total silence. Once that first bird begins to sing, however, it ignites a symphony.
Blending nicely into the dark, early-morning shadows, I have found that deer can appear from nowhere. One moment you are alone, the next a doe and fawn are standing there looking at you. They are quiet and sleek and sometimes curious, emerging from the woods, the nearby cornfield, or just walking down the sandy driveway.
The bird feeders are always hubs of activity, from chattering squirrels to raccoons to the pesky black bear that gets bold enough to come in and steal the whole darned feeder. Annoying, but in a way I still feel blessed to see them.
I have watched everything from turkeys to foxes wander across the yard, which is a corridor from one stand of trees to another. Speedy cottontail rabbits are a fixture on the fringes, constantly frustrating our little dog as she attempts to catch one — not even close, but she is persistent.
I have watched ruffed grouse strut in the underbrush, their tails fanned. Turtles of many species have visited, from snappers to painted to Blandings, seeking a sandy location to bury their eggs, then returning to the nearby lake.
Hummingbirds, small and swift, are always a treat as they dart from flower to flower. Meanwhile, overhead, majestic bald eagles soar. And living near the Yellow River, Canada geese are forever flying just over the treetops, along with the occasional flocks of ducks, sandhill cranes and tundra swans. When you don’t see them, you can hear them. You can toss wailing loons into that category as well.
And it all happens right outside, steps away from the house … if we slow down a little bit and let ourselves take the time to enjoy all that is around us every day.
Thornley is the Spooner Advocate sports editor.