Sparks

January 21 - 25

As you may be gathering by now, this frog business isn’t all merrily dancing about the hurtling traffic nabbing hopsters.  While we have a good idea in what conditions they migrate, the frogs do what they want and when.  We spend hours scanning empty pavement waiting for their appearance, waiting on predicted weather changes that may or may not come.  Of course under their stoic, inscrutable facade, frogs may have a wicked sense of humor.  They may be sitting under the licorice ferns on the slope above Harborton Drive watching the lights wander empty pavement below, the beams searching here, then gliding up the road, probing the curb under the guardrail, then crossing the road before losing focus for a moment and distractedly scanning the hillside, light meandering over arching blackberry canes, tufts of dead grass, the ferns hiding the frogs, who are having a rollicking good time watching the stupid human trick down below, then flipping a coin to see who will go down to the edge of the road, catch a light’s attention, then disappear into the ditch with one jump, to rejoin his friends watching the team of bright eyed cyclopes scouring the area for that damn frog that was right there a second ago. And the frogs up on the hill laugh, and laugh.

 Beautiful gravid female.  (photo: Maggie Rudy)

Beautiful gravid female.  (photo: Maggie Rudy)

Why do we enjoy imagining frogs emulating us at silly fun -- minstrels at the fair, bar room card games, working a hillbilly still? Perhaps because their extreme patience, their forbearance, makes us uncomfortable.  When Euro-Americans settled this area in the 1850s, they couldn't "tame" the landscape fast enough.  Wilderness was thought ungodly -- a large departure from the Multnomah people's belief that each and every plant, animal, stone, stream had a spirit.  For all of our technology and big brains, we are the only animal out of step with the planet, and the frog, and life generally, pays.  Our catching the frogs is really about learning from them, and hopefully getting the message before we destroy them, and ourselves. 

 The confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, once a huge wetland, which, during the Missoula floods was a giant whirlpool.

The confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, once a huge wetland, which, during the Missoula floods was a giant whirlpool.

It was a quiet six days, with 0 to 4 frogs caught on five of the nights, but on the sixth, the 21st, the frogs had their way with us. When the crew leader checked before dark it was dry on Harborton.  It started raining later, but not where the leader lived a few miles away, the locality of showers escaping him.  With the temperature above 50, once it started raining the frogs took note.  Shawn stopped by Harborton to say hello on her way home, and encountered frogs on the road and no one there to catch them.  A chaos of phone calls ensued, and later recriminations, hurt feelings, fury, an impressive ladder of e-mail climbing from the ruins of our frog catching system, through collective failure just short of murder, more hurt feelings, apologies, resignations, pleadings, and on up to maybe it wasn’t really so bad.  Maybe this frog thing is going pretty well.

So we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and what else, have a meeting.  That we make carrying frogs across the road so complicated is perhaps an indication of why we have to carry the frogs across the road.