The summer of my tenth year was inundated with frogs.
As it happens, they were in great abundance that Summer of 1969. It’s possible that our neighborhood was built near an old vernal pool, or maybe the mixture of human development and weather had created biblical plague-like frog conditions. Whatever the cause, there were hundreds of frogs hopping about our front yard–all waiting to be discovered during my outdoor adventures.
Frogs were easy enough to catch and hold. They didn’t bite. They felt cool, moist and yet playfully alive in my hands. They could hop long distances in a single bound—sometimes six feet or more—perhaps a hundred lengths of their little green bodies. To me, they represented life, nature and whimsy all at once.
In science class that year, we learned that frogs were an indicator species—their abundance and health, and even their very presence were omens for good. It meant all was right with the world, that nature was working in that place.
I spend many delightful hours observing them. I suppose I fell in love.
One day, I heard my sister Linda screaming from our front yard: “Noooo!!! Nooo!” I ran toward the commotion, only to see my dad with a manual push lawnmower, sharp blades spinning in a whirr of certain frog death. Frogs leapt left and right. The bodies of some who had not made it left behind in the wake of these glistening blades.
What Would Love Do?
Love might plant herself in front of that lawnmower.
This was no small feat for my ten year old self. Typically, my dad, an ex-marine with a temper, would not tolerate me doing such a thing. I faced certain punishment. I stood my ground.
Of course, he could have physically moved me away from that lawnmower. But he didn’t.
Something led my Dad to compromise that day. Between my sister’s screams and my defiance, we convinced him to temporarily halt the carnage.
For the next hour, my sister and I crawled through the long grass of our front yard, collecting frogs and placing them in a large jar, knowing that any we missed faced certain execution from those unforgiving blades, After we were sure we had found them all, my father finished mowing. We then returned the frogs to the yard, and volunteered for future “frog patrol’ should my father ever need to mow again.
Even now, I feel the horror and anguish of such a world–where humans could destroy these beautiful creatures. What makes it possible for us to destroy a place where frogs live? Don’t frogs have as much right to be there as we do? Is a lawn really that important?
Who will stand up for the frogs?
This was the start to my own environmental activism. As a ten year old, it was all about the frogs. Simple. Whatever saved frogs was good. Whatever killed frogs was bad: The Frog Doctrine.
For decades, I operated with The Frog Doctrine unconsciously in the background, all the while pursuing the dominant cultural dream of Tomorrowland: a better future through technology.
I keenly felt this conflict between Tomorrowland and Frogs, but I did not think much about it at first—so strong was my belief in human ingenuity and so blind I was to the flaws in the Tomorrowland story. I donated to environmental causes and worked in clean tech. Eventually, I grew disillusioned with its underlying “technology will save us” dream.
Discouragement and depletion took hold. A pandemic came and went. The world seemed so broken. To navigate out of this morass, I needed a deeper magic. I needed a new story.
And that’s where frogs come in. So many years after the lawnmower incident, after I stopped all the striving, I found myself remembering them.
So, I built a tiny pond and they came, announcing themselves in a lively, exuberant cacophony that brings me back to a summer night in 1969.
It occurs to me that the frogs have brought their friends.
During the first warm rains, I walk Sam Alley Ridge road by the bridge to witness the salamander migration across the road. I try to get there early, before the cars, to move frogs and salamanders out of harm’s way. I peer into Alley Creek, which is flowing for the first time in three years, and spot dozens of Clear Lake Hitch spawning in shallow pools. I notice these creatures and my heart swells. I root for them all. I hope they make it.
I’m not exactly sure how the new story goes yet, but I do know this:
It is a love story.
P.S. It is my intention to chronicle this new story here as it unfolds.
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Reference: Part 1 of this Story: Building Tomorrowland.
hooray for frogs and YOU - our thread of connection is with Diza, Jan and Rockhaven - celebrated the Cosmic Triduum with the 2 of them, exuberant joy in the new life of spring green, dogwoods and redbuds of STL...regeneration of life from what seemed dead! glad we are outgrowing tomorrowland together into awe and amazement of grace-filled now moments!