“Dada, the frog’s legs are stretched out really far! Is it OK?”
Ess and I were out in the yard, picking up birch sticks, enjoying that kind of convivial togetherness in doing a common chore. We weren’t playing a game, or pretending the sticks were giantess hair, or trying to wring anything in particular out of the moment: just being in the same place, in parallel.
So I wasn’t paying much attention when Ess went to check on a frog. A particular frog, one she had named Melissa Doug “Missy D” Frogchair. A frog that lived in the well next to our house, three feet below grade, outside our basement egress window. A frog we all met early in the summer, after an unseasonably warm June day when Mykala found it and thought it might be growing desiccated. She sprayed some water down over Missy D Frogchair, a gentle “rain” from the June sky, and Mx Frogchair turned and stared at her for a long long time, stretching its neck to catch every drop.
Shortly thereafter, we found a shallow broad container, filled it with water, and set it next to Missy D. After a few days, they decided the water was safe and spent their time mostly submerged in it. Some days we’d go in the basement and check on Missy D through the window, and sometimes we’d find them staring directly at us. We wondered what they saw.
What do you do with a nice frog, one happy in shade, in water? One who has, presumably, plentiful food from the buggy night air? One far away from any animal that might eat it? How do you protect something wild, but still let it be wild? We decided not to intervene: after all, Missy D had grown to be a good adult size, so whatever path they were on did not seem to need human intervention.
And so I responded to Ess on our stick-chore day: “Oh, I’m sure the frog is just fine!” Reflexive, that response of mine. Like I can’t bear the pain of things not being okay, so I’m going to just force them into a box labelled “OK”. I should stop doing that. Was I convinced Missy D was fine, or desperately needing it to be so? I don’t know. Both?
But you know where this is going. I peeked over the ledge of the window well and whatever instinct I have left in my techno-addled brain told me two things: (1) Missy D had died and (2) it was time to bury them.
Ess took the news better than Mykala and myself, I think because dominant ego at her young age obscures much: it convinces a person these cycles of life and death run separate from You. You are the watcher and observer, and perhaps the thing is sad, but you are set apart from it. You move through the world, as if in a dream, working to meet your needs on your timetable for You. And then, as you grow older, if you work on it, you are humbled by the connections between every one and every thing and every event. How we’re just here by weird cosmic luck. How our ability to think about thinking (about this right here, right now!) is another weird universal quirk. How it isn’t put yourself in the frog’s shoes but I AM THE FROG.
These are spots where I feel my limited language falling short in description: I hope Ess can learn to feel that smallness, vulnerability, sense of powerless wonder; but I don’t know how to communicate it. Heck, I can barely wrap my own arms around wisdom and enlightenment, much less pass the spark to another.
And anyway, I felt sad.
I miss you, Missy D Frogchair.