A motorbike amid the shepherds’ huts of Ampezzo

My forestry colleagues and I left from Ampezzo and headed up over Lateis on dirt tracks leading to Casera Valuta, on the lookout for monumental trees. At the last larch, like a lyre playing in the middle of the meadow, a frog jumped onto my boot.

A frog at almost 1500 metres, with snow all around? “There will be more up there”, my friend Lara tells me, understanding my astonishment. I cross the meadow and from afar, I seem to hear the roar of a motorcycle. I look at the track a hundred metres below. Nobody. I go up towards the stone hut, over the cold meadow beneath the summit of Col Gentile.

The sound of the motorcycle is booming more, while other frogs jump away from my boots that crush the grass, crackling with frost. The malga – the shepherd’s hut – is still surrounded by a tongue of frozen snow as it waits for the new summer season.

I look around. There are frogs jumping everywhere, mating in the snow, or disappearing beneath it in an inexplicable dance that confuses summer with winter. Taking care where I step, I cross the meadow, but I still cannot see the motorbike coming up from below the valley, while its increasingly dull sound rises strangely in volume.

All around us, the serene peaks of the mountains look down on us. From far away, Casera Losa stands out in the sun on the meadow of a new colour and larches with the first leaves of a soft green, sprout on the glistening branches made golden by the spring. “Come, come and see”, calls Lara, smiling. I climb up another few metres to a small plateau where what is left of a small lake, almost just a frozen puddle, is boiling.

They’re frogs.

Thousands of them. They jump, sing, mate, lay millions of eggs in a few inches of brown mud, near the snow that is hard with frost. The grey rock of the mountains amplifies the gurgling song that the animals dedicate to spring into a sort of rumbling thunder, while the distant larches mock my hypothetical motorbike on the track, shaking their branches in the breeze.

I am enchanted to look at this boiling mass of life in just a few square metres of gelatinous and greenish mud. In the sticky mud of endless eggs, frogs continue to celebrate life. The enchanted backdrop of the mountains blesses them. I, an unexpected vagabond, admire with astonishment the spectacle of a world that will vanish in a few days.

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