In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Song of the toad

Last night a tiny, dark trilling wafted into the house. The toads were back! I felt a rising sense of good cheer. I had been missing them and wondering when they would emerge from their winter's hibernation. After only two years here I have learned that life is not quite the same when the toads are asleep. After the toads wake up the whole island seems more interesting, more lively, more full of surprises. And now it's about to get that way again.

But first they sing, the males calling to the females with their musical trills. And so last night we listened to their songs floating up from the bog: tenor, baritone, bass. The bog, I'll bet, is a romantic meeting place on a fine spring night with its red sliver of new moon and canopy of twinkling stars, if you are a toad in search of love.

The island is filled with these humble creatures, though they are easy to overlook. They sound quite debonair in the bog, of course. But then when you meet them later on, on land, they are so remarkably slow that they can seem a little dim-witted, like clods of earth suddenly come to life.

As much as you are surprised to see them they are generally dumbfounded to see you. What could that be, they wonder, staring at you. And while they ought to be moving on, lest you be planning toad soup for supper, they take a while to gather their thoughts.

Once last summer I interrupted a toad when I moved a rock -- his rock, it turned out to be -- along the side of the house. He slowly made for the wall of the house, which he tried to climb up with a sort of frantic slowness. Eventually, with great perseverance, he made his way several feet along the edge of the cedar shakes -- occasionally trying out the wall-climbing option again -- until he found a small entrance into the darkness beneath the house, and disappeared.

Two toads took up housekeeping at opposite ends of the new garden last summer. There was one near the grape arbour: Toad of the North. And the second near the asparagus patch: Toad of the South. I hoped they would come back to the garden again this year, so I have built little toad houses for them, of rocks and boards, with a toad-sized pond in the front yard for swmming. I hope it's all to their liking.

How toads find their houses I do not know, any more than how bats or martins find the houses people make for them. It seems extravagant to hope that in the whole wide world a toad might come upon the very house you had made for him. But then why shouldn't it work like that? After all, many will hear the toad singing tonight: the lambs, the sparrows, the mice, the herons, us. But only his own true love will follow his song and search slowly through the dark spring bog until she finds him.

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