May 14, 2015

"Other Nations"

Four days ago, while waiting for the American Toads to begin their loud trilling so that I could record it, I had a kind of revelation: it was a recognition of the lives around me, lives large and small, longer and shorter, that went on mostly without my notice. When I walked down to the pond, my movement silenced the toads, so I sat by the edge of the pond for over 1/2 hour, waiting for them to sing. I rarely just sit and pay attention to what is in front of me, something I should do more often. What caught my eye at first was what was brightest and most obvious: the marsh marigolds growing along the water's edge. Insects ran around and across them.

My pond is human dug, and I added koi to it, but the fish live independent lives, since I never feed them. It was a warm day, and as I watched, I saw a fish leap in the air to catch one of the insects hovering above the water.

There were insects above the water, moving on it, and moving below it. A sense of motion was constant, but very easily missed. 

The male toads make this sound, a sound I think is beautiful, in order to attract females. Their throats expand outward and a huge noise comes out from this small animal.

Today, four days later, the toads are gone, the pond is quiet. I began to walk around looking for their eggs, but didn't see them. They weren't in the spot that is usually full of Wood Frog eggs. When I'd made nearly the entire circuit of the pond, I found them, entwined in the debris at the shallow end of the pond.

The eggs are laid in long skeins of jelly, twisting and curving in and out of last year's leaves and stems.

They are like jewels catching light. To think that those little dark dots will grow into new beings! to be sure, many will not make it, but it's a marvel nonetheless. My thoughts during these days made me appreciate much more deeply this quote from the American writer and naturalist Henry Beston:
We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time. 


  1. Delightful audio/video.
    I could sit by the pond all day, and listen to that...

  2. We are inundated with ladybugs and stinkbugs, brought here from the orient, and they are maddening plagues. But as I look at individuals among them, I get a sad compassion for their plight to succeed. The stinkbug is a handsome rascal.

  3. Gorgeous photos Altoon. I so enjoy you bringing the best of your nature walks. Singing toads, flying insects, jumping fish. The world is much larger even in our small spaces if we just take the time to visit them.

  4. Thank you for reading and commenting, JBS and Lisa.