I love to meditate on my back deck in the morning. It’s so peaceful out there, sitting and drinking my coffee as the sky turns brilliant shades of orange over the mountains.
With years of practice, I am able to block out the sounds coming from the freeway at the bottom of our hill and two miles away, and hear only the sounds of nature: the acorn woodpeckers’ comical wacka wacka wacka! The scream of the red-tailed hawk, taking flight for the first time this new day. Some special mornings, the howl of our neighborhood coyotes. And the sound of a croaking frog.
Croaking frog? In the hills where there is no water?
That’s right. Croaking frog. It’s more of a chirp, really, but a frog-like chirp, not a bird-type chirp. But, admittedly, I was too sure that sounded absurd to even tell Scott about it.
That is, until yesterday, when he came in from watering the plants out back. “I swear I hear a frog croaking out there,” he says to me.
Hallelujah, You’re not crazy, Muse whispers.
“Shut up!” I hiss.
“What?” says Scott.
“Not you.” I shake my head. Muse can be so darned annoying at times. “It’s more of a chirp,” I say to Scott. “I’ve heard it, too.” But when we go out back together to try to find the source of She Who Croaks—or Chirps—it is silent. Only the ravens, doing their rhythmic drumming in the trees, interrupt the silence.
Speaking of which, how do they do that? Crows don’t do it—at least, no crow I ever heard, and I lived near an enormous and very gregarious murder of crows back in Illinois. But our ravens sound like a symphony of drummers, all playing the wood block, going rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat! really fast—three rat-a-tats in the span of about a second. One raven knocks out the rhythm, then another, then another. It’s amazing. And very beautiful. It’s seems to be something they’re more prone to doing on really hot days. I wonder what that means? Are they giving a daily temperature report to the other ravens in the neighborhood?
Ahem. You’re getting off point.
I know that! And you should know it, too by now, oh Muse of Mine. I tend to wander. I love to wander. But yeah, back to the croaker in our back yard. She croaked again while we were eating lunch today.
When you put it that way, you make it sound like she died while you were stuffing your face with peanut butter on na’an. Why don’t you stick with chirp instead of croak?
“Whose writing this, anyway—you or me?” I’m getting a little pissed at Muse. She’s supposed to help me, not be a smartass.
Touchy, touchy, touchy.
We have a clay pipe sticking out of the ivy behind our deck area. I have no idea why, but it’s buried pretty deep in the soil, and we can’t pull it out. I imagine it had some function back 90 years ago when our place was part of an avocado farm. Anyway, Scott says to me, “I think it’s coming from the pipe.”
We peer down the pipe, but it’s too dark in there to see anything.
“I’ll go get the flashlight,” I volunteer, and run back into the house.
Moments later, we’re peering down the pipe again. And we’re greeted by a California tree frog grinning back at us.
We’ve lived here for three and a half years, and never once have we heard, or seen, tree frogs. But they must have been here all along, their song lost in the insect chorus that sings us to sleep every night. This little lady (and she probably is a she, as males sing at night, not during the day) has herself a fine place to hang out, because it has water. And like all amphibians, she needs water in which to lay her eggs. And while we’re approaching the end of the California tree frog breeding season, we’re still safely in it.
I’m stunned to know these little cuties live on our hill. We don’t have readily available water most of the year; even in our rainy season our arroyo rarely fills with water. These little frogs must be really tough. And our little croaker—er, chirper—must think she’s found tree frog heaven, since there’s always some water in that pipe because when Scott waters the flower basket above it, some water drains into it. We’ve named the frog Fern.
It sure doesn’t take much to get you excited, does it? I like that about you.
I think I hear a note of apology in Muse’s voice. I better go make nice with her.