Frog Pond

Yesterday, I looked down into a transient ecosystem that thrived in a large bucket at my feet. I took my son Gavin and a friend frogging at our local pond. No matter that it’s in a cemetery—the modest body of water is quivering with life, and our bucket hosted at least 6 frogs, probably twice that many tadpoles, a host of minnows, and a large beetle that swam circular laps with the vigor of an Olympiad. (Or was it a Giant Water Bug, often mistaken for a beetle?).

The boys conferred about the gauge of the nets and the length of the sticks that they were attached to, and what they might garner with each plunge into the muddy depths. I wished I had a stop-action camera to get real-time shots of all the incredible skyward frog escapes. The most impressive creatures of the day were the two thick, ropy Northern Water Snakes that the boys reported (they actually called them rat snakes, but after some research I think this was a misidentification). We released the whole, squirming bucket in the end, washing the sludgy mud off shins and hands with baby wipes before heading back to the commercial world of pizza, chips, Slushies, and candy.

I believe that every town should have at least one well-frequented frog pond, and Googling around for other fine, civic frog pond examples I ran across Save the Frogs! Our frog populations are dwindling because of a variety of factors, among them climate change, invasive species, and habitat loss, and this nonprofit does a lot of education, also encouraging citizen scientists like you and me to build our own frog ponds. So get digging!

Sometimes it makes me sad when I am out and about walking, or taking another turn around the pond, and I don’t see many other interested individuals or families outdoors—I am fervent in my hopes and prayers that we, as a society, reunite with the outdoors and learn from the connections that we can make there. Science, philosophy, spirituality, medicine, relationships–it’s all there for us to learn! I am borrowing a quote by Chief Seattle (1854) that Save the Frogs showcases on their site, plainly put but it rings so true, especially at the lively height of summer:

 And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of a whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?

Why Nature Writing? Why Nature Reading?

The intensive reading and writing required by my writing conference meant forgoing my long walks. My knees were stiff from disuse, and my soul craved the variety, stimulation, comfort, and sense of spirit that sojourns in nature bring. I slipped a book from my nature library into my bag, escaping into some fine turns of phrase for a few minutes. From where does the impulse to read and write nature rise? To me, it’s a sort of meditation–not just a good proxy for the actual experience, but a wholly necessary act of reflection and appreciation. Barbara Hurd, in Stirring the Mud, gets at what’s behind our literal connection with the earth, and how words can bring us closer to it, with compelling gusto:

When the German poet Rilke tells us to leave our houses and enter the enormous space outside, surely what he means is to follow the asterisk to the bottom of the page, to drop to our knees in algae, push hands into the fringed and seepy edges into which pieces of our lives have sunk, places where year after year the crust grows thin, too thin, finally, to mask the sense that underneath this unkempt border something else is breathing; the origins of our words, wiser afterthoughts, the whispered asides of the spirit.