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Snow Frogs and the Ecozoic World

March 6, 2015
NCM_1258

Who’s that in my headlights?

Last night, driving up my mile of dirt road driveway, in the dark, in the pounding cold rain, I realized what time it was. I realized with a start and a swerve, that it was the Spring Frog Rain. After an inch of rain, and two days of warming sandwiched in between weeks of unseasonable cold, all the wood frogs on my mountain realized it was time to meet up and boogie down. They were crazy-flopping around and I had to drive 4 mph to avoid squishing them. They are headed for a local water hole, which may even still be iced over. I sorted through my mental map of the landscape to try to place a nearby pond…I’ll have to look for it tomorrow. I come across the frogs in uneven concentrations across the length of the road; why the variation in their numbers? File that one away. Apparently, they are “explosive, short-term breeders,” the field biologists say, and the scene had some of the frenzied feel of the local human watering hole late on a weekend night. NCM_1259

I’ve been reading Thomas Berry recently. His work is beautiful. He says: “A renewal of life in some creative context requires that a new biological period come into being, a period when humans would dwell upon the Earth in a mutually enhancing manner.” He speaks of “the emergence of an Ecozoic Era, a time for healing the damage done to Earth and learning to live in harmony with it again. Drawing on the experience of Native Americans, he urges renewed understanding of the Great Story: the combined stories of community, Earth, and universe.”

I got out in the rain, and grabbed my phone and took a few pictures of the frogs NCM_1260improbably hopping into the remains of the last snow of the winter. I drove slowly the rest of the way home and went to bed.

The following day I thought more about the Frog Rains- there’s one in the fall too- and how they touch me and how the moment feels so very alive and well, sacred, to me. I never knew there was such a thing as a Frog Rain until a few years ago, but here at the farm, I’ve come to expect them twice a year. The day even has a particular kind of smell, a feel of emerging warmth to it, and a lot of rain. I wondered if I live long enough, would I be able to predict them a day or two in advance, like our ancestors assuredly could? I wondered if I paid close enough attention, for long enough, or taught my children to, or their children to, could I start to make accurate associations and predictions concerning other ecological events? Would the frogs tell me when the skunks give birth,  when the groundhogs emerge and when the oak trees will bloom? The study of these cycles is called phenology. I think committing to understanding these cycles is one of the most grounding and anxiety-revoking activities a person can do. Over time, it reminds us, in an embodied way, that we are part of the story, the story goes on, and the world and life, despite all its turmoil, is reliable. It goes on.

And what if, after watching for years, suddenly the frogs didn’t show up? Who would notice? Would you? How much has been lost that no one ever knew to pay attention to in the first place?  Amphib populations are in catastrophic decline across the planet. Who knows or cares?  For now, it feels good just to have noticed, to have been there, to have been present to their perennial return. To say “thank you” for it all, to be touched by it.

Berry says we will need Elders of our tribe to re-establish these understandings. I thought back on my experiences with some Native American traditions and recalled that some nations have 13 major ceremonies a year, and by some account, spend about half the year preparing, or being in, or coming out of ceremony. Many Americans don’t even take their two weeks of vacation a year. I’m not sure three months of Christmas shopping counts. We’ll change the oil in our car every four months, but let our own fluids and filters become so clogged and dirty we can’t even tell the difference anymore.

Often traditional ceremonial dates are not set by the western, Gregorian calendar, but by nature’s calendar, in all its eccentric variation. By things like the migrations of horny frogs. And the boundaries created by ceremonial space and consciousness often seem to reference and define multiple worlds, or levels of world, at the same time…this or that act has a spiritual significance but also seems to have a practical resonance and function in the everyday world as well. A sacred grove turns out to be a repository of the best genetics of trees, for example.

Maybe a frog inspired holyday keeps people out of their cars for a day or two? NCM_1261I wondered what would happen if everybody knew about such things. I found that some people do, and respond appropriately. But what if we took it to the next level, and became ecozoic (literally: “home/alive”) then all across the planet, waves of migrations of sassy frogs might be an incentive to stay off the roads, to stay home, to sit around a fire, to feast together, to reconnect, to allot some time to authentically be together and care for each other. Of course it’s inefficient. Exercise of our humanity is always inefficient. The observance of the day turns out to be a good excuse to be the best people we can be for each other, and for ourselves. And it keeps the frogs alive. Which might just, in the long run, help keep us alive.

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3 Comments
  1. Lucy permalink

    Love this! Especially “exercise of our humanity is always inefficient.”

    Like

    • Thank you. It’s true. Our conceptions of efficiency are predicated on machine models, humans as machines. Why is it inherently suspect when we question what pace of life, what room for connection and presence to the world, would be the most ergonomic for health and well-being?

      Like

  2. This is one of the things I’ve always respected/admired about my mentor…

    Like

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