Toads to Perdition
[to experience the full effect of this post, please scroll to the bottom and click the PLAY arrow on the soundtrack first!]
Oh, hello! Good morning! Are you awake?! I know that a great many subscribers are tuning into Live Clay at work, so let’s all take a moment to make sure the volume on our computers is ON, and turned way up high. Ahhhhh. Hear that?
I felt inspired today to share with you the sounds that for about four weeks in April-May define our nights and early mornings. No, it’s not a gaggle of screaming old ladies. It’s not your response to the Tax Man. It’s Woodhouse Toads in our backyard, emerging resplendent from their muddy winter sleeps feeling all sexy and ready to mate.
At this period, after his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic towards the end of Lent. His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large. This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature…
–George Orwell, Some Thoughts on the Common Toad
The toads are uninvited guests who showed up shortly after I built our pond 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t unwanted. They eat all kinds of bugs and spiders, and their hunting territory even extends to my neighbors’ yards; it’s just the mating shrieks from dusk ’till dawn that lend a rather morose aspect to our Spring soundtrack. Did you know that toads scream and chirp from some organ not in their mouths? There are a lot of surprising things about toads that people probably don’t know.
Remember those children’s books, The Adventures of Frog and Toad? I loved those books, but to my young mind, there was always a bit of a competition: who was the better man, Frog or Toad?
Both characters were well-drawn, handsome, and dressed in cool clothes (for boys). Their respective traits were highlighted in moral stories of friendship, empathy, and cookie-hiding. But if Mr. Loebel had been honest, really honest, and told the whole story about toads…
And after saying good-night to his
best friendlover, Frog, Toad went out into his backyard and started screaming like his head was on fire. Soon, his screams were answered by Girl Toad. As she drew near, Toad leapt onto her back and clung with all his three-fingered might like there was no tomorrow. Having been denied long arms by a cruel evolutionary twist, Girl Toad was unable to remove Toad. In fact, she lacked the wits to even contemplate such a choice, and was thus destined for the next many weeks to carry her burden until she spawned, or died of starvation because she was unable to hunt (whichever came first).
Now that would have made for a more balanced story and informed decision when it came to Frog vs. Toad. And come to think about it, may have even affected the outcome of my own future choices involving love and marriage. Yes, too much idealism can be a dangerous influence on the young, developing conscience. Beware, new parents, of the subliminal messages in picture books that only tell part of the story.
Speaking of relationships, this week my mother and two of her high school friends (a couple she was recently reacquainted with after 85 years) are trying to set me up with their son. Like, romantically. We don’t live in the same state. We are supposed to email each other but neither of us has made a move. I’m thinking of just sending this soundtrack with no words. What do you think?
I hope this post will be received by my regular readers as an invitation to share in, if only for 2.57 minutes, my Springtime suffering–a selfless act that will surely strengthen our empathetic bond. As for my new subscribers, I could think of no better way to say hello and thank you than by welcoming you with nature sounds. Greetings! I’m sure my friend Emily over at The Waiting thinks she has it hard with a newborn… well, think again, because guess why? Babies grow up. They learn to sleep and talk and repress their feelings. Toads just multiply. And Stacie of Gemini Girl in a Random World is getting ready to go visit her dad on a mysterious farm (she suspects it might involve ducks with extra legs) in the South. Guess what your dad needs, Stacie? Yeah, mysterious screams to go with his mysterious farm. Then there’s the clever Guapola, forever taking polls with funny answer choices. Know what the funniest answer of all would be, Guap? Just link up the toad soundtrack, my friend. No words necessary. Last but not least, Momma’s Money Matters, who receives more unwarranted, unintelligible hate mail than any blogger I know, and who writes THE funniest responses… What’s the one thing that will leave your hatemailers speechless, Red? That’s right, Toads.