Thursday, July 8, 2010
It's been exceptionally hot here in North Carolina lately, hovering around 100 degrees for the past four or five days. Naturally, the garden suffers. Colorful flowers start to droop, normally robust green leaves fold into themselves, everything tries to protect itself from the normally friendly sun. We gardeners know that this is the time to help Mother Nature along a little and to provide some extra watering whenever possible. I've been making it a point of trying to water in the morning, but last night, after a stunningly stifling day, I went to the porch to gather my watering pot and placed it under the faucet to fill while I put supper in the oven. It's a big watering jug, so it takes several minutes for it to fill. I didn't pay any attention to it until it sounded like it was near capacity, then turned back from the stove to use both hands to take the jug out to the porch.
When I reached for it, I noticed one spot on the handle was a brighter green than the rest of the jug and with a start, realized I had brought a rather large tree frog into the house with the pot. He sat there, frozen into his spot, his fat little body anchored on the handle, even after I lifted the watering can to bring it outdoors.
All the way to the porch, I kept talking quietly (like the frog knew what I was saying), hoping he wouldn't hop off before I had gotten him outside. My cat -- old as the hills but still spry -- seemed to realize that we had a "visitor" and would have been quite happy to follow him around the house had he hopped off, and I really didn't want to have a chase on my hands.
Outside, the frog remained on top of the watering can, so I started watering the geraniums near my door, then the pots of pansies that line the stairs. Still, the frog sat on the handle. I now had the chance to study him more closely -- the racing stripe down each side of his squat body, the large suction cups on his three-toed feet, the way his sides swelled with each breath.
Still, he hung on.
By the time I got out to the mailbox to water the basket there, I noticed one of my neighbors taking a bike ride around the block with her little son, an adorable boy of five with light brown curls down to his shoulders and the most striking tiger-colored eyes. He's a precocious kid, and I knew he'd get a kick out of the frog, so I called him over.
His excitement spilled over, and though he reached out, he didn't touch the frog -- simply lowered his face so that his long lashes were almost close enough to touch the frog's body. The conversation began.
"Does he like leaves? Do you think if I give him some grass, he'll eat it? Where does he live? How high can he jump?"
We chattered for a while, and I shared my rather pitiful knowledge of what a tree frog does and what he eats. Mostly, we just laughed every time the little frog moved.
We shared a good ten minutes of "frog time." Then it was obvious the frog was done with us and wanted back to his natural habitat. We let him go. I went inside to get more water for the plants and told my husband of the adventure. Then I realized I had no photographic evidence, so I went outside to see if I could still find the frog, and there he was -- hiding in the lip of my garbage can, enjoying what little shade it offered. I took a photo with my phone and went inside, still smiling.
I love garden gifts!
The Frog by Hillaire Belloc
Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise "Ugly James,"
Or "Gap-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Bill Bandy-knees":
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Merwin is one of those poets with whom I connect on many different levels. First of all, he grew up with those poets in the 1960s who wrote of freedom and activism; secondly, he is a Buddhist, thus I understand the weighted simplicity of his words; thirdly, he is committed to preserving the land beneath his feet, and since he lives in Hawaii, that land is exceptionally beautiful; and finally, I always thought he was one of the most romantically handsome of the poets who have written during the last thirty or so years. (Look at some of his earlier photographs!)
I think we have made a good choice in Merwin, though I don't believe he'll do as many personal appearances as other poets. He does have a distinctively American voice, unapologetic, multi-layered, full of angst about his family and the world around him. I look forward to seeing what he will create for this country.
And, of course, he has written about gardens:
What is a garden
All day working happily down near the stream bed
the light passing into the remote opalescence
it returns to as the year wakes toward winter
a season of rain in a year already rich
in rain with masked light emerging on all sides
in the new leaves of the palms quietly waving
time of mud and slipping and of overhearing
the water under the sloped ground going on whispering
as it travels time of rain thundering at night
and of rocks rolling and echoing in the torrent
and of looking up after noon through the high branches
to see fine rain drifting across the sunlight
over the valley that was abused and at last left
to fill with thickets of rampant aliens
bringing habits but no stories under the mango trees
already vast as clouds there I keep discovering
beneath the tangle the ancient shaping of water
to which the light of an hour comes back as to a secret
and there I planted young palms in places I had not pondered
until then I imagined their roots setting out in the dark
knowing without knowledge I kept trying to see them standing
in that bend of the valley in the light that would come
The wet bamboo clacking in the night rain
crying in the darkness whimpering softly
as the hollow columns touch and slide
along each other swaying with the empty
air these are sounds from before there were voices
gestures older than grief from before there was
pain as we know it the impossibly tall
stems are reaching out groping and waving
before longing as we think of it or loss
as we are acquainted with it or feelings