Posted by: ktzefr | July 20, 2011

Frog songs and stories

Verdes tardes de la selva...Green afternoons in the jungle…/Afternoons that smell of mud, rain-soaked leaves…/the shad leaping in the river;/the din of monkeys…/throwing soursop peels at each other…/The black river, like ink, at dusk./Silvery marshes all aglow,/and the frogs singing…”  ~Ernesto Cardenal

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Cardenal writes of Nicaragua, but his words remind me of the country next door (Costa Rica), as well as other tropical places I have been.  And of my childhood in Kentucky.  And of my own back yard.   In other verse he describes the “golpes en los techos de zinc” (raindrops on the tin roofs) and I recall how a downpour at night can be especially fierce on the metallic roof of a rainforest hut.  I also recall the old garage loft in Kentucky where I sometimes played with friends.  During a summer storm the metal roof rumbled  so loud we could hardly hear each other speaking.  I love the night rains in the tropics and the way the world gradually comes back to life afterward…and the frogs start singing.  The same sort of thing happens in the mountains.  A downpour then silence then frog song.  And those scents — of mud and rain-soaked leaves.  I like the small ways in which the world’s diverse places — and people — are connected. 

Thinking frog; Photo:KFawcett

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When our son was little we built a lily pond in the back yard and hiked into the woods and collected tadpoles from a stream and brought them back to our pond to watch them grow and sprout legs and become frogs.  We had to sneak through the bushes to the pond in order to get a peek at the tiny frogs sitting on the edge of the pool before they plopped quickly back into the water. 

Leap Frog

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A few years ago I started to light up the backyard barbecue grill when I discovered a tiny frog, about the size of a quarter, sitting in a corner of the grill where he was sure to be lit up if I turned on the flame.  We put him in a big, empty stew pot with a screen for a lid and set him out of harm’s way until dinner was over.  All that summer and the following three we checked the grill before flaming it up and each time removed the frog from his perch.  Sometimes we put him in the plants or back in the old pot for the duration.  Once, when we had the deck washed and sealed, we put him in an old aquarium and set it out in the garden amongst the big hosta plants until the job was done.  I don’t know where he went during the winters, but every spring he showed back up the first time we fired up the grill.  Why?

I finally discovered that his perch beneath the blaze was a perfect place to catch tiny flies and gnats and other insects that came to check out the drops of fat and bits of food that had dripped into the aluminum grill pan.  The flies filled up on miniscule bits of burnt burger and the frog filled up on the flies. 

We haven’t used the grill much this summer, so we haven’t seen the frog.  But last weekend my son was checking his peppers and herbs in the garden and found a tiny frog on a leaf.  We were excited for a minute or two, but he doesn’t think it’s our frog.  Too small. 

Jabba the...Frog!

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Once we brought back a small toad from a visit to Kentucky and kept him for several years.  Toady lived on a steady diet of grasshoppers, and every fall he dug into the mud we provided and hibernated for most of the winter.  We had tree frogs at one point, too.  One fellow could muster up a blood-curdling cry when he felt like expressing himself — generally in the wee hours. 

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One of my favorite frog songs is the song of the Coqui in Puerto Rico.  The coquis start to sing (ko-kee) when the sun goes down and they sing all night long until dawn.  They sing in the parks in San Juan and throughout the countryside, especially near the Caribbean National Forest.

The coqui figurines and what-nots sold in gift shops aren’t necessarily replicas of the real deal.  A real coqui looks less like the one above and more like THIS

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~ by Emily Dickinson

“I’m nobody, who are you?

Are you nobody too?

There’s a pair of us, don’t tell!

They’d banish us, you know!

How dreary to be somebody!

How public like a frog,

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

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Happy Wednesday from my bog to yours!

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