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He first came to us in late summer. Iridescent green with a belly of soft watermelon. He was about the length of an outstretched thumb. Unimaginatively we named him Kermit. I found him first clinging to the inside of a plastic pitcher, the one Elizabeth uses to water her potted plants and replenish the birds’ bath. He didn’t seem to mind me peering in on him. He remained unmoved, staring up through densely dark, unblinking pinhole eyes. 

I showed him to Elizabeth. I think she fell in love immediately. Sometime later in the day, just after dark, he slipped away when we weren’t paying attention. We assumed we’d seen the last of him.

The next morning, a bright, soon to be sultry August day, we found him back in the pitcher again, still green, still staring up, still seemingly content within his new found home. We felt privileged to have been chosen Kermit’s steward, though we’d done nothing to warrant his trust. 

This pattern, leaving at dusk and returning the next morning, would repeat each day for the remainder of the summer and early fall. After a time, we would plan to sit out on the back porch, sipping gin and tonics and wait for the moment of his departure. It would always happen around eight o’clock. He would climb to the lip of the pitcher, look out and about for ten minutes and then, in a movement to quick to see, leap three feet onto the seat of our old rocking chair. Another leap would take him to the edge of the deck and a final plunge nine feet down off the deck would bring him to the back yard. We would soon lose track of him in the darkening lawn. 

We never saw him returning in the morning. It was always too early for us sleepyheads, but return he always did, presumably climbing back up the deck post, back onto the small porch table, back into his pitcher home.

Elizabeth and I would joke about him being like the teenage son we would never have. Gone all night - Gawd knows where - only to return the next morning, sleeping in his room all day and when asked about his previous evening, would never utter a single word. 

Late in October the days grew cool, the nights colder. Elizabeth worried after him greatly. She wrapped his pitcher in a thick blanket, hoping to insulate his home from the growing chill. She placed a small cup of water in the bottom of the pitcher and sprinkled bits of leaf and flower pedal for him to eat, though we never saw him eat or drink anything. Mostly, we just looked after him, hoping each day with us would not be the last.

Elizabeth did some research on tree frogs and asked a colleague, a former naturalist, for advice. He was reassuring. “Your tree frog,” he said, “knows all about winter. When it’s time, he’ll find a soft patch of earth out in the woods and burrow in deep until Spring. He knows better than you what needs to be done.”

Elizabeth learned more about our friend on the Internet: what he liked to eat, how long he might live, and the fact that tree frogs have three characteristic songs. One song is for finding a suitable mate. One song warns of danger. And one song tells all that the time has come to burrow into the ground in preparation for winter.

On a particularly cold night in October just after a soaking rain, Elizabeth says she heard just such a call from Kermit’s friends out in the woods. She says they were saying, “Come out. The earth is soft and damp. It is time to sleep.” The next morning, Kermit was gone and we’ve not seen him since.

I don’t really know how tree frogs think. I like to imagine their thoughts are no less rich than our own, but far less burdened by matters of inconsequence: the job, the relationship, the rent, the nightly news. Instead, I imagine they think about the same things we should all think more about: love, warmth, nourishment, security, and safety, though with a clarity of focus that we in our muddled lives could never possibly muster.

And so I think Kermit came to us because he instinctively understood Elizabeth’s porch to be a place of warmth and comfort and security, and above all else, absolute love. Smart frog to so easily understand something I’ve only now bee
n able to recognize for myself. I’ve been coming here for exactly the same reason.


Update.  Kerm returned this year, with a friend.  Here's a pic, fyi


Comments (1)

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Nice and light piece with some reflective elements to it. Well done!

Joshua Hennen
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