Posted by: Memorizing Nature | May 8, 2010

Frogs Awaken

The frogs belt out a symphony of a thousand vocal sacs, filling the air with an ear-blazing collection of high-pitched tweets and chirps and trills. There is desperation to the calls; the pond will soon evaporate. Spring is fleeting – by the time the trilliums are done, mating season will be over.  To think that on a couple of months ago, these amphibians lay dazed below the surface, under defunct leaves, breathing through their skin. We skated above them. Did they hear the scratches of our blades, sticks slapping? Maybe they were down there shivering, checking their circadian rhythm to calculate the number of sun-downs until show time.  We can’t sleep. It’s just too loud. So we slip out in the middle of the night barefoot, mud squeezing between our toes. We creep through the young poplars, stare at the half-moon, and open our ears. We imagine the thousands of tiny balloons inflating, amplifying sound. While the cacophony seems disordered, it is probably organized, as a mechanism must exist for the pairs to discover each other. Music – the necessary language. 

"We imagine the thousands of tiny balloons inflating, amplifying sound." (Photo by E. Medline)

There is more life in this dingy pond than in a city of commuters. The chickadees feel ashamed of themselves. A nearby squirrel, in fitful sleep, contemplates making a complaint to the local predators.   

I am unable to sing, at least properly. I remember trying out for the school choir in the fall of the first year of high school, hesitantly emitting the national anthem. When the last note was uttered, the music teacher laughed, and said no more. I too laughed; at least she didn’t pretend it was decent, and I fully understood that my future as a folk legend wasn’t to be.

But I played the piano, because that didn’t require air sacs, only fingers and a brain. Every day after school, I directly headed for the piano bench, even before shucking my heavy packsack. This was part ritual, part compulsion, mostly joy. I still play, not every day, usually sloppily, and I open the windows so the other beings can hear, and know, that we are not so different.

When the frogs start their yearly calls, we always smile. Vulnerable in the world we inhabit, they have made it through another year. Their celebration is also ours.

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  1. As someone who heard Elaine play the piano back in those high school days, I’d like to clarify the record here: She had fingers and a brain, yes, but more than that, a true feeling for how to make the phrases sing. Her fingers sang at the piano.

    • Much too kind. In any case, I took piano lessons twice a week for nine years at the top of an old tower in a gothic building (all true!). That’s what helped me play decently, in addition to an empathetic, talented teacher.

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