The Poetry of Frogs

I found a pen on the floor of a coffee shop this morning. I’m a believer in signs, and it seems to me that this was clearly a sign. As if someone was saying all right, you have the pen, now I’ll give you something to write about…

Later, high noon at the Ridges…on one of the first glorious spring days, a friend and I head down Deer Lick Trail, eastward between swales, trekking through the pages of time. A large sun dog says rain is coming, but for now it’s warm and clear. We hear a chickadee calling his love song, a single crow scolding in the distance, and the voices of cranes high in the air. Everything seems to be singing with new life today.

The waters are a clear, tannin brown, the boreal forest a hundred different shades of green. We step lightly on the soft path, enjoying the sounds of frog choruses – one of the first and most delightful harbingers of spring. As we near an exceptionally loud area, the frogs cease their clacking, clattering songs and wait for us to pass. Then, when we’re safely down the path, they begin again – a symphony of the most exuberant spring music.

We cross several bridges over the swales, between old ridges. Grasses wave gently, bending toward the lake waters and we are content to do nothing but listen to birdsong, ecstatic frogs, and cranes’ throaty calls overhead.

Finally, reluctantly, we approach the last bridge. The frogs seem to be extra loud at this place, so we step very slowly onto the warm boards. Moving toward the middle, the songs cease, but we see much motion beneath the clear water. A curious frog appears here and there, and we notice the many dark gray, almost black, sacs of eggs laid among the bent grasses. We decide to see if the frogs will start up again, if we remain still and quiet. Sure enough, soon after stretching out in the sun, the chorus resumes. We’re lying on our backs, but realize that if we move ever so slowly, we can spot the small amphibians with the huge voices. The chuckling and clucking is again reaching a crescendo, as we ever so slowly roll over, to a vantage point of looking down into the water below. Little by little, the frogs come out from beneath the grasses where they retreated at our approach. There are a few single ones, but mostly the frogs are joined, coupling in the clear water, among all the little egg sacs. Hundreds of them are appearing now, and those that do not have a partner seem to be calling very loudly for one.

Some of the frogs are larger than others, some have golden stripes on their backs, some red stripes. All shimmer in the noonday sun. There are approaches and retreats, and brief skirmishes, as the ladies pick and choose among their suitors. A single frog lies splayed out on a leaf, eyeing four others who appear to be eyeing her. She lazily pushes off into the water, as if to say okay, boys, make your move…but it better be good…There is thrashing and splashing and never ceasing noise, which is now so loud we can barely hear each other’s whispers. We move at a snail’s pace, when it is necessary – to scratch a nose or stretch an arm or leg, but the frogs no longer seem skittish of us, and continue to indulge their passions right before our delighted eyes. They have accepted us – two crazy persons prone on their bellies in the middle of the bridge. For almost an hour we lie there, till we are so cramped we can barely stand up. But when we do, the frogs happily ignore us. We are kindred spirits now – honorary frogs, perhaps. And the celebration of life goes on…

I found a pen on the floor of a coffee shop and wrote this story with it. But I know a thousand pens could never do our experience justice. In the end it is an unrecordable moment in this human invention we call time.

time—like the ridges and swales themselves…measured not in moments, but in millennia

Sharon Auberle is the author of two poetry books, Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball and Crow Ink. Her new book, Sharp as Want, is a collaboration with poet Jeannie Tomasko, in which Auberle’s photo artwork is paired with the poems of Tomasko. When not writing or in the woods she can be found on Facebook or hanging poems and pictures at her website – Mimi’s Golightly Café.