Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Suicidal Frog

frogatquarry.jpgMy grandson, the famous frog hunter, is up for a visit and after a week and a half, the frogs have finally gotten smart and found Jonathan-proof hiding places. To the east about 70 feet is "Frog Kingdom" and to the west about a full city block is "Frog Heaven". Armed with a butterfly net and a minnow bucket, the mighty hunter goes forth, choosing his direction by the wind, the weather, and just good old 7-year-old instinct. Frogs and toads, from old and huge to young and tiny, huddle in the grass at the bottom of the bucket as he trudges back to show everybody his catch. He watches them intently, and the rest of us hope the old ones don't take a notion to eat the tasty, young ones in front of his innocent little eyes.

After an hour or so, he knows he has to let them go, and his idea of real adventure is to let the Eastern "Frog Kingdom" frogs loose in the Western "Frog Heaven" and vice versa. Do they find their way back home? Of course they do. It's the nature of things, according to the book of Jon.

It got me to thinking about the suicidal frog I ran into at the clotheslines one day, and I wondered whether that particular frog eventually came to its senses and is now responsible for some of the progeny ending up in the minnow bucket and beyond.

It was a warm, sunny, early spring day with a breeze off the lake that cried out for sheets to be drying on the line. I had just set my basket down when I sensed something in the grass to my left. It was a big, green frog and I don't know how I knew it was there, because it could have been a frog statue, still as a stone. It sat there with it's head turned away from me the entire time I was hanging the sheets, and that seemed mighty odd, considering I could be the enemy for all it knew.

But then I saw what it was watching, and I just have to assume that I was more horrified than that frog was. It was a snake in the grass. A REAL snake in the grass. And it was poised, head up, looking ready to strike. But the frog just sat there, waiting. "Go!" I whispered to that frog, but if it heard me, it didn't acknowledge it. "Get out of here!" I said out loud, but it never twitched a muscle. I stomped my foot, and again--nothing.

Finally I turned my attention to the snake. I was not going to be a witness to this. No frog on my watch was going to commit suicide-by-snake. I had a long clothesline-prop nearby, and I reached for it, but then thought better of it. What if that snake crawled up the prop and got me before I could send it flying?

What to do, what to do? "Get out of here!" I yelled to the snake. But once again I might as well have been a thousand miles away. Neither of them were paying any attention to me. I was afraid to move, because I had it in my head that my presence was the only thing keeping that frog alive. If I moved in any direction--toward the frog, away from the frog--the snake would strike for sure. There were no rocks within reach, nothing to throw, so I yelled louder : "Come on you guys, stop this!"

Finally, my husband came around the corner to see what all the fuss was about, and he calmly kicked the snake away from the grass and onto the beach, where it slithered into the water and went out of sight.

So what did the frog do? It looked at me as if to say, Fool!", and hopped down to the beach in hot pursuit of it's executioner.

The moral of this story is, when a frog wants to die, it’s going to die no matter what kind of intervention you desperately attempt. Saving the world is a sorry, unappreciated business. Take your victories where you find them, and forget about the ingrates, amphibians included.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice

Today marks the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Up North, where I live, the sky will still be light close to midnight. I love this time of year, and I especially love this day, but it’s always tempered with a mix of sadness, because tomorrow the cycle reverses and the days will begin to grow shorter.

KOKKO2.jpgSolstice celebrations started with the Pagans, and then the Christians got into the act with St. John’s Day. In Finland it’s called Juhannus and it’s one of their major holidays. There they make huge bonfires out of any cast-off wood, including old boats, and the flames reach incredible heights.KOKKO2.jpg

In my earliest memories, I can see huge Juhannus bonfires (kokko) up and down a Lake Superior beach where the Finns, including my aunt and uncle, had summer camps. Singing and drinking went on far into the night, and we kids opened the windows to our room on the upper floor and fell asleep to the sounds of three-part harmonizing as our parents and their camp friends pulled out their entire repertoire and sang, slowly, sweetly, a capella.

They’re all gone now, all those people so full of life and promise, but the memories live on. Will there be bonfires on that beach on this night, and people gathered around singing and celebrating the longest day, the start of summer, the hope of new life springing from the earth? Oh, I hope so. . .

Sunday, June 8, 2008

When the bears came

Saw a big black bear yesterday right on the side of the road a few miles from our house. It was about to cross, but saw us and ran up a driveway and into the woods. I didn't have my camera (a rare thing these days), but even if I'd had it, I couldn't have set it up fast enough.

Not getting a bear picture is the story of my life. Even when I have the camera out and ready, with seemingly all the time in the world, something always happens that keeps me from getting the picture. It's as if the bears have some kind of power over my camera, because I can point and shoot and point and shoot and set and reset and STILL no keepers. I could post a picture that I took through my double-paned window one night when a bear was within three feet of me on our deck ravaging a bird feeder, but all you would see is black on black.

Our first bear sighting was late at night, when a mama bear and her three cubs found the galvanized garbage can full of sunflower seeds we always left on the deck. The lid was secured with bungie cords to keep out the raccoons, but we really weren't thinking "bear". Every now and then we heard from a distant neighbor that one had been rooting around, but we had never seen signs of any around our house.

Until that night. We heard them first; the terrible clatter of that trash can as mama rolled it down the deck steps and then began attacking it to get inside. I turned on the porch lights and she didn't even look up. I took the screen off the bathroom window, the closest spot to where she was now, and took picture after picture of her inside the can, her rump in the air; of her coming out for a breather with seeds all over her face; of her cubs lurking just behind her, watching and waiting . I was just simply giddy. . .I saw myself showing off those pictures to everybody I knew -- maybe even posting them on the town bulletin board. Our first bear!

But, of course, it wasn't to be. That particular camera just didn't get it. It couldn't or wouldn't adjust to such low light automatically and it had NEVER let me in on how to adjust it myself. So again with the black on black. I tell people they'll just have to take our word for it when we tell our bear stories. They WERE there. Honest.

(Remind me to tell you about the time a bear trapped my husband in the garage. I know HE'S not going to tell you!)