This morning a storm rolled through starting at about 5:30 a.m. The power went out at about 6 a.m. When the storm finally passed, dawn had broken. I went out and looked at the rain gauge. The water was still sheet washing over the drive and down at the bottom and where Persimmon creek runs over the road, everything was backed up. Water was going over the road. It comes down quick on Persimmon creek because it’s just bean and corn in the small watershed above. There is no sponge to soak things up when it comes down fast. The gauge said almost 3 and 1/2 inches (89 mm) in less than a hour.
With our tax return money I’d bought a generator but never used it yet. Most of the time, I have to be forced to do things I’ve never done. And I’ve never used a generator before so, after four or so hours without electricity, I finally un-boxed the thing and sat down with the directions. As usual, once I got it running it seemed not to be such a daunting task. The thing fired up nice and easy and hummed there on the porch and I plugged in the chest freezer and then the fridge. We ran the generator a few hours and cleaned the house then gave it a rest when the baby was going to go down for a nap.
I went out when the wife was laying down with the baby, nursing. I walked under the oaks and out into the orchard toward the dam. I’d been out earlier in the morning to clear the beaver work and get water going out the culvert again. When I’d been out earlier the beaver had been there. He was trying to stay on top of things with the early morning rain. Usually he is only on the night shift. My son was with me and the beaver smacked at us on the water with his tail.
It was past mid-day now when I was going back out to make sure it was flowing good. And as I approached it looked like the beaver had been back out there, working on things a little after I’d left. Or else the sticks had been pushed by the water into a particularly beaver-like placement. I was trying to decide which it was when I about stepped on a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon). He was sitting in the middle of my two spoil piles where I take beaver sticks and mud and pull them from around the culvert and pile them up on either side, depending on if I’m working with my right or left hand. I was able to get a decent look at the water snake when he stopped for a second once he’d gotten out from under my foot and before going under the water. He wasn’t too long and had a nice reddish color with bright pattern.
I wish water snakes were more fond of people. I used to look at them a lot when I was a kid and in the creek. They seemed to be a little less wary there. And I used to see a lot of them. Here on the farm I don’t see them so often and never for very long.
Just when I got busy clearing out the channel that the water runs down, through the cattle panel and to the wire cage that we have over the culvert, a medium-sized green frog (Lithobates clamitans) jumprf from near my feet toward the water. I grabbed it. It jumped out of my hand and I caught it in the air. Again, it jumped out of my hand and I caught it in the air. I laughed and put it in my pocket. Then I finished clearing the grates till the water was flowing good.
When I was done, I took the frog out of my pocket. I always think of Arliss (from the Disney movie) from Old Yeller when I do such things. Indeed, the character in that movie is still an idol of mine. I took my green frog out of my pocket and looked at him as I walked across the dam. I’m going to say him, but I’m not sure what the sex was. Poor thing, he had a bunch of lint on him. So I took a step or two out on the dock and dipped him in the water then looked at him shining wet in the sun. He was a good thing to look at up close. So I decided I’d look at him as long as he would let me.
I laid down on the boards of the dock and rested on my elbows and forearms with my hands still cupped around the frog. Then I opened up my hands and looked at him. And the sun was shining down pretty strong on the back of my legs and the frog was in the shadow of my hat. I’ve got one of those $5 straw hats with the green, accountant visors on the front so if I moved my head too much the frog would be in the green reflected light. And there he was this frog. He was about the size of a black walnut with the hull and everything. And he sat there, free to jump away, in my slightly cupped hands.
I watched his heart beat. I watched his throat pulse under his mouth. I watched his skin dry and his nostrils open. I don’t know if those are even called nostrils but they’re tiny dots of openings at the tip of his nose. I’m under the impression that frogs breath through their skin. I watched as he seemed to change to a speckled golden color on his back. I looked at how he had his feet this way and that and wondered if he was ready to jump. Mainly though, I looked at his eyes.
His pupils were dilated and his heart was beating pretty fast. Poor thing, I hope I didn’t scare him too much. I don’t know much about what it is like to be a frog but being in somebody’s pocket that you don’t know can’t be much fun if you don’t want to be there. But he was effectively free now. And he sat there looking at me, wide-eyed. His pupils were black and ringed with gold. Where my eyes are like a hazel-blue, his were golden and black but mostly golden, beautiful golden. I don’t know how long I’d been holding him, but I think he’d calmed down and his heart was beating slower and his pupils were less dilated, when he was suddenly startled at something. His body tensed up and his eyes got really wide. I don’t know if it was a big dragon fly that was flying by or what, but he calmed down quick after that.
His body was in a new position on my hand. I hadn’t moved but his neck and chest were somehow on pressed against my hand so that I could feel his heart beating. I wondered if he’d done that on purpose. We stayed there for a long time. I was very interested in looking into his eyes. And he was seemingly equally, or perhaps more-so interested in looking into mine. But I got the feeling he wasn’t just looking in my eyes but looking at everything else as well. I tried to just focus on his eyes. I was very interested in seeing them. I was very interested in seeing any changes. And I wanted to be looking closely when he moved or jumped away. I was successful in watching his skin change color again, like a chameleon or a marlin, and become flecked gold. I don’t think it was the sun’s light doing this on his back. I think he was in control of it.
And I looked and looked at his eyes as much as a man can look at something, I looked in that frog’s eyes. The geese came down to the water to drink across the pond and I looked up at them. Then back at the frog’s eyes. A fish snatched some insect off the water-shield plants and I looked up to see the ripples where it’d happened. Then I focused back to the frog’s eyes. I thought a little bit while I was thus consumed. I didn’t think too much but I did think. I wasn’t trying to be interested in the frog’s eyes, because I was interested in the frog’s eyes. But still I thought about other things, the sun, the geese, the fish, the dragonflies. I don’t know that I was trying to do anything. I sure wasn’t trying to think anything. I guess I was just trying to be with the frog.
Here he was, this frog of mine. He’d tried to jump away from me two or three times and now he was just sitting on my hand breathing calmly, looking at me, being with me. I guess, if I was trying to do anything it was trying to be with him just like he was being with me. And he was so good at it. I did realize how bad I was at it. I did realize what a burden this mind is to try and do such things. But it was a blessing to be with him like that. I don’t know how long it lasted. Maybe it was 15 minutes. Maybe it was a half hour. I don’t think it was an hour.
It was very similar to what had happened with the praying mantis but with the praying mantis everything happened quicker. Just like with the frog, I’d picked up the mantis and he’d jumped out and I’d caught him in the air and that happened twice, just like with the frog. Then I’d taken my straw hat off and put him int it and pressed the hat to my chest and walked to the house to show my son. And when we were standing in the back yard, I took down my hat and let the mantis crawl on my thumb and hand. And I held him up pretty close to my face to look at him. And the mantis was more amazing to look at because he moved his head so much. And the way they move their head, I don’t know, there is something about it. And the mantis had eyes that were like holes in space, like they were see-through. And I wanted to look at him for a long time. But It was just a brief moment with the mantis.
With the green frog, that moment was sustained. And it struck me that being with the frog was a lot like meditation. And I understand that people who meditate have a hard time letting their thoughts come and go without grasping at them and following them. And it was the same for me, with the geese and the fish, and I was returning to my frog, just like some people return to their breath in meditation. And do you know what meditation is? Meditation is a technique to stop believing in your thoughts and know you are God. And, I don’t know that I will go into it too much here. This is better fodder for Eumaeus Pointing at the Moon. But I should say that this could be the only practice. This could be the only religion. A frog or a mantis is the only thing that you need to know the truth.
Then the green frog took a step up toward my thumb and later another step up till he was perched there. And after another long time of being perched like that with a straight shot to the water, he jumped down onto the dock next to my hands and then down the dock toward land a few hops. It was then that I got worried for him in case there were some patrolling bass or a big blue gill that might be able to swallow him. So I asked him if he’d mind if I picked him up and started to do so. And when I had him in my hand he jumped off and this time I didn’t catch him but he swam off chirping to shore.
I walked back through the orchard, along the row of hazelnuts, under the ripening plums, under the oaks, into the yard and onto the porch. I opened the door and my wife was strangely gesticulating with a paint brush in her hand. The baby was asleep and she was trying to be quiet. And she was pointing this way and that in an odd and happy manner. She was gesturing wordlessly at the the electronic devices in the house. The power was back. The whir of normalcy returned. I plugged the fridge and the freezer back into the wall. The baby woke up. We turned on the air conditioning in the room where we have air conditioning.