PART ONE: IN WHICH I FIND A SMALL FROG
Today, in the dog’s outside pool, a small, bewildered frog swam to and fro. I noticed it coming to the surface for a breath, then diving back down. What? An actual frog in a black tank of water? How did it get in there? Was it dropped there by some bird? Did it come off Jake, the big Lab, who uses that hard rubber cow tank full of rather scummy water, to cool off on hot days? I try to keep the water fresh. The water insists on evolving into an interesting little world despite my indifferent maintenance of that rubber pool.
That small frog. Floating about on the surface, clearly wondering how to get past that giant black wall.
So I made an executive decision. I scooped that little life up and popped it into a jar. Where that little life would travel a bit, safe and protected, to either the Warm Springs ditch just below the house or even to the Malheur River. Where it would slip beneath the brown waters and go where it wished. Clearly, the frog expected the worst. Why had it been moved from a relatively open and aquatic world to a tiny glass cylinder that perhaps still smelled of dandelion wine? The frog clung to the glass and then clung to the plastic as I transferred it, yet again, to a small lidded leftovers and small treasures container. What the hell, lady??
PART TWO: A WALK WITH A VIEW
Molly went with me to the irrigation ditch below the house. We two walked down to the ditch bank, she sniffed every ground squirrel hole and waited for me to help her hunt. A storm brewed, the sky going from that pale blue to that bumpy bruised glory that is the cosmic visage in the western high desert skies during storms. That Big Sky Country that extends from Montana all the way into the mythic reaches of the Manly Mythical West. That spectacular display of raw, elemental power and a blend of blues, from robin’s egg aqua to Baba Yaga fierce navy eye color. I always imagined that famous witch with eyes so dark blue they seemed black until you got close for their tornado blue to skewer you.
Mr. Frog sloshed about.
The water ran very high. Flooding has been common since the ghastly amounts of snow transformed into actual lakes of water that overflowed banks, went over damn and wreaked an unmerry havoc even yet as I type this. A lone egg floated in the debris that had gathered around the flotsam around the opening that allowed the water to flow uninterrupted beneath the road. A white egg bobbing in the faint current. Perhaps a duck egg. I opened the container’s lid and gently poured Monsieur Froggy onto mud right above the surface. He tumbled, then leaped. Those long ridiculous amphibian legs, the small webbed feet. He sank beneath the water, I saw him for a moment and then, not even a ripple to mark a frog had been there.
PART THREE: STRAY THOUGHTS ON A SMALL FROG
Liberty. Liberty is a muddy farm ditch and water weeds throwing out long green locks to waver just beneath the surface like the locks of some shy mermaid.
Yes, I went out of my way to save a small, unimportant frog. I find I still fiercely care about the teeny lives that cross my path and need a bit of help or even a lift from a closed in dog pool to an open ditch where that life will take its chances with the local predators and accidents and fate itself alike. I find I am not yet numb. That as I write this and think of Manchester and Kabul and Portland, Oregon and Syria and…That I care. That something in my heart bleeds and stings. What can I do?
Love does not combat this hatred. The hatred of homegrown beasts, the hatred of not-homegrown beasts…their hatred is one and the same. Kill the other, kill the other, kill the other. I’m afraid. That vast savage tide seems about to break over us again. When we forget those other vast savage tides that were only held back by…I don’t even know right now if they were held back at all. If those rancid tides just kept coming in to shores that secretly or not so secretly welcomed them with a promise that soon, soon…Soon, your time will come around again and some rough beast will slouch its way to Bethlehem already born and past ready to use its claws. Use them in a way we can’t recover from until the next bout of vast savage tide begins to gather postulants and the grinning faithful who have God and Truth on their side. I want to mouth the pretty bromides that love conquers hate, that love conquers hate but…it doesn’t. Hate waits and is patient and makes plans…love thinks it can win. Hate never gets tired but love grows old. And here we are again, on the brink of something truly ghastly, with only a few more little pushes to allow that tide to roll on in with a filthy happy sigh. We expect people to be decent. We expect them to care. We expect them to find charity toward those they’ve been told are subhuman garbage…we expect them to change and learn a lesson and magically stop being who they are. We expect them to stop hating. We expect. I’m afraid actual hatred doesn’t work that way at all; it’s not a movie where some life lesson is learned after…What rough beast slouches its way toward America to be born. What rough beast is already here. What rough beast.
PART FOUR: REGROUPING
I had started off this post to merely tell about a tiny slice of time taking a trapped frog to a ditch. Some bright, shallow, slightly amusing take on country life, small amphibians and a happy dog. I am not a sharer of my deep, tender, raw anything…I have been badly and at times, publicly, burned alive for it. With everyone laughing as I burned and writhed and tried to pretend I wasn’t melting in agony. I retreated to words. I retreated behind walls of words. The world bewilders and tires me. Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they remain limp and DOA on that poor page. I started off this post and thoughts got in my way.
I am perhaps at the lowest point in my life right now. I admit that. My thoughts fill with horrible things that feel so comforting. Shhh, just go away now. Shh, just slip away now. Shhh, it’s all right, just slip away now. That nearly endless refrain that never goes silent, that gentle chorus of the damned. But today, I helped a small, bewildered frog. I watched it sink beneath brown waters, into the wavering hair of the bright green water weeds. The dog, Molly, nearly stood on a small snake. I lifted an old board and there it was, the tongue flicking nervously in and out as it lay there curled up in a perfect circle, a tan snake, perhaps even a young rattler…or a young bull snake or a snake I’ve yet to name, hoping it would not have to escape from its comfortable little spot beneath that old, rotting board. I carefully put that board back down and Molly never saw the snake. I saw it. I crossed paths with a small frog today and a small, young snake. I did what I could and I tried to harm no one. That I still wish to help and harm no little life…
I don’t know if that means anything anymore.
PART FIVE: CONFESSIONAL
Oh I didn’t mean for this to become confessional. To offer a glimpse of my cringing, naked, nearly dead soul. How far must I fall yet to climb back up…or am I not climbing back up this time around. And will I, like that small frog, sink beneath waters and pass from the story. I will not know his ending. He was trapped in that dog pool. I scooped him up and took him to the irrigation ditch. I let him go. He went. Is there a better small story than that? A story that ends with a bit of hope and mystery and a cool descent into unknown depths? Is it not a version of the Birth/Life/Death/Birth trope? I am nearly dreamless these days and breathing in the faint, still-lingering fumes of Hope and Ambition and Purpose. Hope is the worst. It kills by slow, awful, decades-long degrees…Hope is the thing with tiny razor blades, that perches in the soul.
PART SIX: THAT ROUGH BEAST HOPE
Hope is the thing that even that rough beast cannot devour. Hope is the thing even that vast savage tide can’t drown. Hope is that small, bewildered frog seeming to sigh with real happiness as it sank, sank, sank until I couldn’t see it anymore.
Maybe it’s not love that’s needed right now. Maybe it’s something far more ancient and resilient and malleable. Maybe it’s hope. Faith, love and hope, the greatest of these…is hope. Faith fades, love dies…but hope is idiotically, mindlessly eternal. Maybe it’s hope that conquers that tide starting to roll in. The notion that things cannot remain so dark and relentlessly grim and stark as shadows on a wall.
Hope is the thing with tiny razor blades, that perches in the soul.