After the good rain we had in February…rain that washed out the roads and the railway line and disrupted our lives even more than Covid…the rain that caused the river to flow and replenish the basin, the trees to be washed clean of red dust, and the grasses to grow lush and green and then turn golden…the rain that cooled the earth and peppered the sky with glorious clouds at sunrise and sunset. After that rain was when the little frog appeared.
The little frog was the size of my thumb on my small hands. At first we only heard him. Chirrrrrup. Chirrrrup. He would announce his presence for a minute or two, only once or twice in a day, or sometimes at night. He was considerate enough not to carry on for hours. A week or so after we first heard him I switched the light on in the bathroom one evening and sensed a presence nearby. I glanced over and there he was looking at me. I must have looked like the biggest giant in the world to him but he didn’t try to escape, he just looked. When I came out of the bathroom and told my husband he said ‘Did you catch him so we can return him outside?’ ‘Well, no, I didn’t want to risk hurting him.’
We had a ‘spider jar’ and now we needed a ‘frog jar’. These jars formerly held my husband’s favourite sweet treat, chocolate covered almonds. I have a slight jar fetish, mostly for glass, but for any useful shaped jar. The almond jars are plastic with screw top lids and so if you are trying to catch and release something they are not likely to break and they are light weight too. I had a spare almond jar and I retrieved it so it would be handy for the next time we spotted the frog. He was gone by the time I had returned this time.
The next time came in the middle of the night and how or why I saw him in the dark I have no idea, but I ran for the frog jar and came back to him still waiting for me, this time in the toilet bowl! I carried him outside and released him into the very large bowl of water I keep for the kangaroos and birds. The moon was bright that night and I saw him swim quickly to the bottom of the bowl and then straight up again to perch on the edge of the bowl. And stare. At me. He looked at me like he either didn’t understand or was very disappointed at his new situation. I was moved to explain to him my reasoning but I didn’t. I couldn’t speak amphibious syllables and he wouldn’t have understood.
On subsequent occasions we spotted him in the toilet bowl again but were unable to capture him for relocation. And then he relocated himself. He disappeared for the coldest part of winter and then suddenly in August at the end of Winter when it was still quite cold, he reappeared singing happily from the hand basin drain in the ensuite bathroom. Attempts to relocate him were mostly unsuccessful this time, though we did mange to catch him a couple of times. Since we couldn’t figure out how he kept getting back in again each time, we kind of gave up and learned to live with each other. He was no bother, except for the occasional ‘chirrrrup’, and even that I began to listen for each morning, a kind of checking in that everything was ok with our houseguest.
And then the sightings and chirrrrupings stopped. Oh, but there it was once more and I realised I was relieved to hear it. And then it was no more. At all.
A few weeks later I was vacuuming, doing a rare clean into corners I usually didn’t bother with. What was that small dark oval shape? I leaned down and even without my glasses on I could see the desiccated silhouette of our houseguest. Even in death he had not been a bother, just crawled neatly into a corner and dried. Writing about this a couple of weeks later I have tears welling and a lump in my throat. Why should that be? There are unanswered questions. Aren’t there always? Among them I wonder, did the little frog enjoy his serenade to me each day from the echos of the basin drain? Or was it just me who enjoyed him?
A few days after finding him I read the writing below and commend it to you now. I think it might apply to tiny frogs who find an amiable house to live in, too.
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” —Richard Dawkins