‘Just a few weeks back I noticed a little frog sitting under the really big apple tree in our garden. Nothing unusual in that beyond the fact that our population of frogs is normally active after dark, and this solitary one was sunning himself in the long grass at mid morning. I peered closely. He was sleek, bronze and glossy, a handsome little fellow. He sat upright with his head stretched up to bask in the early Spring warmth, and I tip-toed away so as not to disturb him. Two weeks later while I was filling the bird-feeders I bent down to pick up something and there was the little frog again, in exactly the same spot. Only this time he was darker and more… thin. And, as it turned out when I prodded him, dead. In fact, mummified. As dried-out as an over-baked biscuit. Heartrendingly what I had taken on that first encounter for his head raised in sun-worship, had in reality been the way he’d been caught in a ground-frost the night before, raising himself up on his front legs to catch onto life, but missing it. And ever since the juices had been evaporating out of him, leaving his little carcass skinny and black and hard-as-iron, yet in a death-throe that looked so life-affirmingly alive. I don’t deny that I shed a tear for the little chap, so calmly, so hopefully, so fatally raising his head to the stars as the sharp frost took him.’
I wrote the above piece this morning as a comment on my friend Rebecca Verity’s blog Kid in the Kyak. (Check it out. Her writing zips along with a wonderful, wit-fuelled vitality.) I was pleased… not to mention surprised… by the way the account turned out, so I decided to clean it up a little and post it here. And maybe make a print or collage too, for which the drawing at the top of the post is preparatory. Our garden is full of everyday triumphs and tragedies, often of the smallest sort, but the poignancy of this life lived and lost, rather caught me out.
However there are enchanting things too, one of which was a tiny mouse-burrow on the steep bank of an herbaceous border. It had a pile of excavated spoil next to it, on top of which was balanced an antique, tissue-thin mother-of-pearl button, barely the size of a toddler’s fingernail.