Green Prophets

1frogI have a fascination with frogs, and could -almost- be one of those people who hoard along a theme.

I would collect all things related to frogs. Large ceramic frogs would line the front yard and small frog knick-knack would sit on the window seals. There would be two frogs on an old rusty bike, green frog-shaped candles, cat tails in the corner of the foyer, a frog dream catcher in the kitchen, and one hanging from the fireplace mantle by it’s front legs.

Many people get weird with their Steeler, Yankee, ‘Sixers etc, regalia; their Gnome and Santa figurines. And I would have my frogs.

Frogs represent the natural world and stealth. They breathe transdermally (through the skin), require fresh clean water, and are a key indicator of the health of the environment. They reproduce by the tens of thousands, filling a huge ecological gap.

And God said “There are an awful lot of animals that live in and around the waters that need something to eat. And there’s a lot of annoying insects too small for them. Hmm.” And so God made frogs.

I once had an elderly patient who spent his entire career as a professor and educator on environmental protection. He spoke to me about how many in his circle called the cause environmentalism while others hated environmentalists, and preferred to label themselves  “good stewards.” Both groups got the same lecture, were chasing after the same thing, for the earths sake.

The story in the Hebrew Bible about Moses’  plague of frogs was really a dig aimed directly at the Egyption fertility goddess Heqet who was represented in the shape of a frog. To try pinning down exactly how many frogs there were and how that could happen is missing the point. The story is in there for a reason, among nine other plagues meant to roast the Egyption gods.

“THERE’S your god! You’re up to your ears in your gods. And the God of Moses is in control.”

But I think the ancients had it partially right. Frogs are a creature of new beginnings. To me they represent the spring of the year and of my life.  I remember first being told that tadpoles turn into frogs. How could this crazy idea be so; that a creature which clearly exists as as aquatic in structure and function could also be so obviously meant for land? Frogs are the ultimate underdog.

I spent much of my childhood chasing after frogs, eventually collecting every species native to PA, including massive Bull Frogs caught with a dry fly on fishing line.  I loved them all, though my favorite was always the pickerel.

I moved on with life. Learned to talk on the phone and go fishing like a proper adolescent instead of stomping through the swamp with a net. I found a love of sports, getting a degree, this obsession with (human) health and athletic performance, and then winning at adulting. Or, at least not losing while dealing with various responsibilities.

“I’ll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms

…I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.”

But all the while, if up to me, I would return to the frogs. They’re accessible but sly, just enough of a challenge to capture. To this day I continue my mission to find tadpoles that are stuck in hoof prints and ruts along the side of ponds and roads, and various evaporating puddles, in order to transfer them to lakes and streams. Even in college, not owning a single net, I kept an eye out for swamps and vernal ponds. I would retreat to them, squish-squish into class with a muddy shoe and a hint of the organic, dead-leafy smell. It’s no wonder that I didn’t date much before meeting Amy.FF4DD638-229B-4AB9-9BAF-C24583E772FD

Should it be surprising that when the days work is through, I can easily get lost in the back yard or at the pond? I don’t care too much about Sports Center, video games, golfing, repainting the hallways, or even training. Seeing my kids eagerly walk down the road with a net and bucket in-hand is like a dream.

Hopefully the kids will enjoy and protect simple things in the natural world. They will understand and appreciate green spaces at a gritty, not-just-academic level. Maybe they will even try to live simply and sacrifice some comforts for…well, really for their own good; for the good of everyone.

At dusk I hear frogs calling, filling their role far beyond the food chain. They are prophets of all that creepeth, singing hallelujah praises for undeveloped space, proclaiming a warning to those who willingly or unintentionally pollute their own lands and lives with toxins, excess, and frantic busyness.

And too many knick-knacks ; )

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