"Win or lose, sink or swim
One thing is certain we'll never give in
Side by side, hand in hand
We all stand together"
— Paul McCartney, We All Stand Together
When I was a much younger wertperch, someone (regretably I forget who) gave me the book Life on Earth which was based on the BBC TV series of the same name. Apart from the wonderful written content (which I always heard in David Attenborough's voice), it was packed full of glorious photographs illustrating the animals being discussed. A couple of them still spring to mind; one is the slow loris, the other is a tree frog. The photograph itself is nothing special, just a green frog with, you know, frog eyes¹. But it struck a note with me, and it created a love and appreciation for all things froggy. Not that I was about to become a herpetologist, but I looked at frogs in a different light.
One of the things I learned from discussions with Those Who Know About Such Things is that many frogs are very extremely sensitive to their environment, and that in certain areas, are used as a marker for how healthy the environment is. It turns out that Christine's favourite and most magical place, Lake Matinenda, is rammed with many species of frog, and one of the first things we would do whenever we arrived was to visit one particular bit of the lakeside and look (and listen) for frogs. We were always happy to discover that they were still around, and that they (hopefully) considered us sufficiently good neighbours that they'd hang around.
"If they go silent, there could be bad stuff happening"² according to Christopher J. Raxworthy, a herpetologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. So with that in mind, when I was creating a canoe landing near the cabin, we took great pains to ensure that we didn't disturb their home too much. Every time I went down there I'd thank them for letting us share their space.
We once helped some local friends build a frog pond near to where we lived. It was a weekend community project not far from our house, and it was a fun and muddy way of bonding with some of the neighbours. After the pond was populated in that mysterious way that Mother Nature has, we'd often sit out on the deck with one or another of the locals and enjoy the frog song.
The frog chorus is for mating purposes, of course. Boy frogs calling for girl frogs, each species with a different call. The girl frogs prefer louder and deeper songs, and some of them respond with their own encouraging calls. Species have their own timing too, so there are continual waves of sound that boom and squeak and croak and even scream in punctuated rhythm. You get the picture.
Some call this cacophony, I think of it as a chorus that frogs have been practicing for millions of years. Different in each part of the world, even from one pond to another. But one thing is certain, as Paul McCartney knew. They do it together and will never give in.
When Christine finally died, it was in a room on the same side of house as the frog pond we'd helped create. She'd asked to be moved there from our bedroom, and for the windows to be left open. Each evening, the room was filled with their serenading, and to this day I think of her when I hear the frog chorus. Thanks, frogs, for singing for her to the end.
For Zephronias, because I promised her a frog writeup at some point
For grundoon and imp/buddha, because you fucking love frogs too
¹ The frog picture