Amphibians of the temperate latitudes have marvelous and sundry ways to embrace every season and we no less miss them on our winter Saunters. We let ourselves be surprised to see them year after year through the ice and sometimes on it and around the shrinking edges, grateful each day for a frog-now.
Naturalists love the spin and ride of the cosmos but sometimes we need be reminded to wildly live each day and frogs are good at that. Soon they will enliven us with their sonic fertilities but for now we are just happy to see our slippery kin. It has been too long! — Jack Phillips
(Plains leopard frog Lithobates blairi in Washington County Nebraska on February 22nd, 2020. Photo by Troy Soderberg.)
The Fruit and Fate of Throat-songs
Becoming a Naturalist, Part 50 by Jack Phillips
Last week our teacher asked unanswerable questions and this morning we are taught to look for answers inside the questions and why look for answers anyway just love the questions and live them so I follow a ravel of poets to a frozen brook to look for fresh questions.
Where does a frog keep his mating songs in the flatness of winter? Maybe in his head. But summer-songs require an inflatable organ so how could his little brain hold them already packed with dragonfly strategies? Are they kept in cold mud-bubbles to tune the next chorus or saved in sex-dreams to kindle the next heat?
Or having risen from the pond do Anuran melodies seed the heavens with amphibious rain as Aristotle believed from clouds the frogs and kin are born? Or are they tucked in a musical sac the skin-bag of fertility the tissues of sticky vocabularies? And what of us? Is a poet a thin membrane that fills then withers when nature seems elsewhere?
Winter is neither slumber nor repose rather a slowly opening eyelid an in-breath before April. Fecundities pool and swirl ready to gush in milt and eggs then larvae the fruit and fate of throat-songs. But what of the humans here dreaming of spring?
In every season the spawn of these waters spins the wheel of the cosmos gives to the moon the stretch of skin and to souls the shape of the earth. From winter comes primal voices soon to swallow my head in song my person in vernal ripples. The creek is still but the frog-pond is awake.