And now time has already come for setting our clocks ahead (my least favorite night of the year!), and for the vernal equinox. This day, Eostar, is equal to the night, poised but listing toward the side of light. The Saxon Eostre (whose name is the root of East and Easter) is a dawn goddess, signifying new life.
Hiking at Mt. Diablo after a very rainy winter last year, B. and I encountered unusual weather: cool, windy, and foggy. Sprays of golden flowers carpeted the hillside. B. found an owl pellet on the trail, a ball of tiny broken bones, feathers and guts all compacted together. I’d never seen one before.
Buckeye, long white candles of fragrance, grew all the way down the still-green slopes. Bluebells, and brilliant fuchsia-colored lovely clarkia grew near each other in the riparian woodland leading down Curry Canyon Road. The hills were in some places their normal dryness for this time of year, long wild oat grasses swaying in the wind, in others strewn with flowers. There was still some water running in the streams, usually dry by now, so B. suggested looking for the vernal pools we’d found one spring, picnicking secluded and surrounded by pines. Instead, we ended up at Frog Pond, which first appeared underwhelming, small and shrunken due to the lateness of the year (although it still had reeds and plants growing in it), and right next to the trail. But I went and knelt down at the shore for a look, and came upon a delightful sight.
Keeping still and crouching low, I called softly to B. He crept up slowly, I pointed, and he noticed a frog on a branch. But I’d meant the tiny one (size of my thumbnail or smaller) in the mud by the pond. Not one but two wee froglets! I hadn’t expected any, as they’re nocturnal, shy creatures. Then we realized the shore was covered with carpets of frogs, as B. said! As he backed up, tens of them leaped out of the way, and as we crouched again, our eyes adjusting, we saw that they were everywhere, sitting very still and looking up at us.
We made our picnic there, careful to spread our blanket away from the muddy shore, up on dry grasses where there were no frogs. Then we just sat, and looked. Some of them glinted golden in the sun, bronze metallic, some coppery. I saw a slightly larger green one – a mother? – “hiding” on a leaf. Darker ones, black or brown, blended with the mud, all with a small black stripe at the corner of their eyes. They hid in little mudholes – for cool or warmth? – sat two on a branch, or stayed near our blanket as we enjoyed our sandwiches, chocolate cupcakes from our local bakery – B.’s surprise, and red wine. Surrounded by hundreds of sun-bronzed froglets, we both were so enchanted, B. commented that they could “ride atop the backs of dragonflies.” I couldn’t tear my gaze away, watching as they hunted insects (though some were too big for them). Even a lone tadpole in the water seemed bigger.
Eventually we had to go, the temperature dropping as the wind blew fog over the tops of rock outcroppings of shale, sandstone, and olivine, and ridges beyond. We only saw one other person during this truly restorative, resplendent day. A reaffirmation of our closeness with each other, observing nature (one of my favorite activities to do together), that day provided us with a good, longish hike like we hadn’t had in months. I needed it physically, feeling sluggish and stiff for weeks, my mood low and restless. Time to get OUT into the countryside, at once, to celebrate spring!