The late E.B. White, who is one of my favorite writers, surveyed the scene from his New England farm back in 1975 and found that much of the world was not to his liking.
The list of issues confronting him from the morning headlines seemed daunting:
“Oil. Unemployment. Nuclear power plants . . . Windmills . . . The price of gas at the pump. The price of doughnuts in the store. The power of the Federal Government. The long shadow of the state . . . Breaking and entering . . . Drug abuse . . . Arab sheiks.”
The current events of White’s day, of course, are eerily similar to those of our own, and they can seem even more depressing a generation later, giving as they do so much evidence of how little progress we’ve made in improving the human condition.
But there were at least a couple of things that lifted White’s spirits after he placed his newspaper back on the breakfast table and considered life beyond his window. The willow on his farm had begun to bloom, affirming the continuity of time on a planet that otherwise seemed broken and disrupted. “I know, too,” White told readers, “that on some not too distant night, somewhere in pond or ditch or low place, a frog will awake, raise his voice in praise, and be joined by others. I will feel a whole lot better when I hear the frogs.”
I thought about White the other night when our own chorus of croakers let loose with their creaky hymn to the heavens, swelling our patio with a memorable serenade. Their music was so loud that it distracted our attention from the TV news we were watching. We decided to mute the volume on the console, temporarily silencing the latest roundtable on the latest Washington scandal, and listen to the frogs instead.
This has been a good summer for frogs at our place, and surprisingly so, given a drought that’s been so punishing to the life of the garden. There have been recent summers in which we’ve heard hardly a single croak, but this season, the shrubbery comes alive each evening with rusty song. If there’s a better tonic for what ails a sagging soul, we haven’t found it.
The language of frogs remains a sublime mystery to me, but there are nights when I crane my ear to the bedroom window and wonder if the amphibian arias wafting over our goldfish pond are a plea for rain. Summer showers have been so scarce lately that we welcome them as we might herald the arrival of a traveling circus, angling for front-row seats to watch the show.
As thunder rolled and a light smattering of droplets tapped at our roof Saturday, I made coffee and crossed my fingers that the rain would last until the pot was dripped and I could enjoy the weather-watching with my afternoon brew.
The rain stayed just long enough for me to drain my cup. Good frog weather, I thought to myself, placing my empty cup in the sink and hoping for more rain to come.