Vernal, Ephemeral, Cryptic

An “aha” moment- how wonderful, how cherished the memory!  I love a story I heard about Albert Einstein.  I heard that as a child he was given a compass as a gift on his birthday . The compass made him realize- aha- that there were invisible forces at work in the universe,  forces that we could not see but could find indicators and evidence to describe their existence.  Well, we are not many of us going to be physicists, but others have similar aha moments; cherished memories of a time their eyes were opened to another, formerly invisible world.

I attended a symposium today, on native plants.  One session I signed on for was called “Springtime Ephemerals of a more Cryptic Nature.”  I didn’t know what to expect, but – well, could you resist that title?  We boarded a van and went to the farthest parking lot of the  Arboretum.  From there we walked through a mowed meadow to wood’s edge.  A short walk in we found a “vernal pool”, which you and I know as a giant spring puddle.  The kind that swells up around thin tree trunks, is edged with wood’s debris, and will disappear in the warmer weather, leaving a slimy layer of black, rotting leaves to mark its place.

It turns out, these vernal pools are habitat to many frogs, toads, and salamanders.   Creatures who burrow just slightly underground, maybe emerging just under a rotten log to find some bugs to eat.  They come out and mate and lay their eggs in March, as soon as it is just above freezing.  They lay their jellied egg masses in these pools where there are no fish to eat them.  And the pools last just long enough for their purpose.

These creatures are cryptic because they are hard to see.  They are ephemeral because they don’t last long.  But if the woods and the low places that collect water in the spring remain (unencroached by development), they will manage to reproduce.  And then we will continue to hear their babies, outsized voices coming from tiny, fragile bodies, croaking and trilling in the night.

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5 thoughts on “Vernal, Ephemeral, Cryptic

  1. Wow! Wish I was with you on this adventure…and felt like I was because of how well you told it!! Your story helps me appreciate the outside world more, something g I can easily can for g r anted.

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  2. That was fascinating. I didn’t know any of that. Next time I am walking in the woods I will know to pay attention. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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