Their suction cup feet, I remember photos of tree frogs in National Geographic and how I fell in love with them, with their oversized toes. For years I had frog love, tiny tree frog love.
Once when I was a girl I captured a baby toad and made it a home in a shoebox. I filled it with cut grass and dirt, sliced slits into the top of the box, set the toad inside and slid the box under my bed. Days later I went to check on the baby toad. I pulled out the box and found the toad inside, dead and dried. Like the smashed ones we used to pick up on the road, it only took a day or two for them to dry out, paper cut-outs of frogs. I couldn’t believe I’d killed something so small and innocent.
I did the same thing once with a newborn cat, put it in a shoebox in a closet at Grandma’s. We went to the horse races that day, and when we got home I ran back to check on my kitty. I found it, suffocated on the toilet paper I’d stuck inside the box to keep the cat warm. It had sucked the tissue, as if a mother’s teet, looking for milk.
My girls don’t have that same desire to hold on to animals forever. Animals were exotic things to me. I hoarded them the way some people hoard objects. Now we’re surrounded by animals; no need to keep them in shoeboxes under your bed or in your closet.
Toads and frogs. They seemed so pervasive in my childhood, yet now when I try to remember them, nothing seems to come.
I remember walking in squares in the zendo, listening to Natalie say, Let it come to you, let the words and memories come to you. I remember thinking how liberating that idea was, after struggling with my writing, stuck in a place of wanting to find a gem, a story to tell. I wanted to be as clever as the person who wrote, “Sorrow is an onion, not even a mild yellow one.” Or the person who described her daughter building an envelope out of paper and tape. I wanted to cordon off my story, a snapshot of my world. Nothing came, nothing comes now.
Once Dee and Em caught two baby toads on the ditch. We made a terrarium for them out of an old aquarium. We put in a pond made from the top of a Cool Whip container, blue and green aquarium rocks, and dirt from the yard.
I watched the toads for hours. They were as big as the tip of my thumb. We caught them ants, small black ones, and those tiny bugs that scatter as if by magic, disappear by jumping when you pick up a rock lodged into damp dirt.
The toads didn’t find the first few meals we gathered for them. The tiny jumping bugs jumped away. The black ants crawled up the glass and out the oxygen slit in the top of the terrarium.
Then we had a flying beetle invasion. They were small beetles, teeny tiny, striped white brown, maybe black. They swarmed at the door to the garage, and we caught a huge amount, seventy or a hundred with just five minutes’ work. We emptied the beetle container into the terrarium, and the toads started to eat.
They stayed in one place, each its own, and waited for the beetles to come to them. When the toad would spot a beetle, it would become alert, creeping slowly toward the bug until zap, out came the tongue like flypaper.
I was frustrated after a while, seeing as how the beetles had gathered in the corners of the terrarium. The toads stayed in their spots in the middle, waiting for the beetles to come to them. I tried herding the toads to where the beetles were, but as soon as my hand was out of the way, they’d hop back to the middle. The toads still ate plenty of beetles, but I wanted a feast.
I’m thinking now that toads are living the life I should be living. Slow, patient. Rewarding, not piggy. Not moving toward something. Waiting for something to come.
related to post WRITING TOPIC – TOADS & FROGS.