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.
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.