Sunday, May 31, 2009

Screaming Frogs

I babysat Ryan & Grace yesterday on this glorious late spring Saturday - one of those days when the world is all blue and gold, bright and beautiful - one of those days you want to live in forever. We took a short walk up the road to chase frogs at Peck Pond, which was once the local swimming hole and now a nature preserve stocked with fish by the town.

It was late afternoon when we got there and the pond was half in shade. There were thousands upon thousands upon thousands of tadpoles with bellies about the size of a pinky nail, hiding in the little coves of shallow water near the shore. They still lacked any limbs other than a tail, like flattened out commas, but their faces were staring to take on a froggy shape.

We could hear the adult bullfrogs gulp and rmrrrrr-rou, and I, able to manage a pretty good ability to mimic (yes, I know –I am a man of many talents), started calling them out. Rounding the sunny side we found a big bullfrog, a bit larger than a kitten, sunning himself on a rock and giving the kids an enormous amount of excitement when he leapt into the pond away from us and managed to elude a hungry perch as well as two little kids and an uncle.

I did manage to capture one little guy (another talent) and passed him around to Ryan and Grace who were just silly with excitement over this poor creature. Before I returned him to his pond, Ryan reminded me of the screaming frogs.

A while back, when Ryan was in animal phase, and before his all consuming Star Wars phase, I stumbled over many videos on YouTube of screaming frogs. All the times, as a kid, I caught frogs in Peck Pond myself, I never even knew frogs could scream, let alone do anything other than croak or leap, but that’s the internet for you: showing you things you never knew existed on which other people have spent lifetimes obsessing.

They are just so hysterical in a weird/funny way.

Those are some ticked off frogs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Cruelest Month

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”
- T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

Recently an old friend of mine flew out from California for the funeral of his wonderfully funny and sweet mother. As with most funerals people reacquaint themselves with old friends and after the business of transporting the deceased to her resting place, I spent some time with Fred, recounting the exploits of our twenties and updating each other on our current lives.

Fred is a programmer and I am interested in tech so the conversation steered towards the topics of Facebook, Twitter, blogging etc. When I commented on how I don’t see the usefulness in Twitter, microblogging the minutiae of your life, as I had a blog I keep forgetting to update, he responded with a “yes, I know. I stopped following it because you stopped posting.”

Oops. Let me explain.

I had not intended to let April pass by with few or no posts, but April began to get a little weird on me and I decided to wait it out.

Wait it out? Yes. April and I have a bad history together.

I’m not sure when I became aware of my dysfunctional relationship with April, but I do remember hearing a seemingly happy girl at a party in early October some years ago relate how bad things happened in October to her. A parent’s death. An eviction. A boyfriend in jail. Several relationships dissolving into mess. A car accident where she was injured and hospitalized for two months, bones broken, etc… She seemed to be not so much confessing these things happened than warning us just to wait, it’s coming, the next bad October thing.

Years later I’ve forgotten that girl’s name, and even some of the details of the party, but I distinctly remember her sitting on a blue futon, in a yellow sweater and white shirt and having a eureka moment: “Aha! That’s me and April.”

Despite March ending as a lion or a lamb, despite beginning with April Fool’s day, having Shakespeare’s birthday, National Poetry Month, Earth Day and usually Easter, April contains Tax Day, cold April showers, Hitler’s birthday (a national holiday for the ultra right nuts in the US), the anniversary of Colombine, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Oklahoma City Bombing.

But for me, the first creeping of warmer New England weather brings bad, bad things. I have my own history of fights, break ups, friendship ending confrontations, depressive episodes, long periods of insomnia, car crashes, job drama, injuries great and small and a mass of other misfortunes occurring in April. When I die, it will probably be in some April, hopefully, years from now.

Twenty-one years ago a friend of mine killed herself in April and her death left me in shock for a weekend and emotionally bruised for years. And in 2000, when my apartment caught fire with me in it and destroyed or ruined or marked every single thing I owned, it was in April, damnable April, that it occurred.

After that I decided April cannot brutalize me anymore and has no more evil to do to me. But late this March, I kept seeing coincidences that were either remembrances or foreshadowing of unpleasant events, so I decided to go to earth, as it were, and keep a low profile till May came.

Nothing bad happened, knock wood, and I should have poked my head out of by blogger hole in early May when I saw lilac trees blooming. We’ve always had some lilac trees growing up in our home in Connecticut. They bloom regularly, early to mid May, for only two weeks. Their appearance and the powerful sent of their tiny blossoms are the sign that the dark clouds of April are gone and the beauty of May is here.

I have no excuse for not posting in May, however.