A bunch of frogs: a knot, a chorus, an army

by Steve Harrison

The cacophony begins most nights after sunset, usually after the first big rain of winter. Our house looks out east over Chicken Creek, poetic in name but little more than a paved drainage ditch off Padua. The sound — loud, boisterous, rumbling — reverberates against the hills and bounces off fences back onto itself. It ebbs and flows, but never diminishes, continuing for hours. The source, a chorus of frogs, that I assume come from an army of Kermits out to attract a mate, the need for connection strong. It continues for a few months before satiated, then the drone stops.

We’ve lived in this house for 20-plus years, and I feel the call of the wild hasn’t always been here. It’s not an unpleasant sound, sonorous and much more serious than a solo “ribbit” commonly associated with these small amphibians. In fact, it took me some time to focus enough on the source to decide it was indeed frogs.

The columnist at play. Photo/courtesy of Steve Harrison

Rarely do we hear a lone ribbit or see a frog anywhere on our property. Last year with all the rains, however, a tub I use to collect rainwater for watering plants became a temporary home for a small knot of frogs. I had been contemplating pouring out all the water for fear of mosquitoes, but the frogs seemed to take care of the pests. I would check on the little creatures from time to time and make sure the water level was high. I seldom heard a sound from them, and then one day they were gone, hopefully to join their comrades in the creek.

Except for those of us who live along the drainage ditch, I doubt most Claremonters know of the raucous dating pool, the sound droning on for hours. It made me wonder about the uniqueness of neighborhoods and how much most of us don’t know about one another.

Over the years I’ve been taken aback by the beauty of afternoon light on the hills, wanting to call one of my artist friends over to capture it on canvas. Of course by the time the call is made, they gather their gear, and get here, the light has dimmed. Again, our neighborhoods hold magic that is not apparent to everyone. Beauty is around us all, but not always readily apparent to visitors.

I appreciate the need of all those frogs wanting to make contact. The chorus is loud and strong. Mighty. It surely is what people in choirs feel when they sing in unison. I’ve always been a big talker, and in retirement I have missed connection; I think this column has provided a way to connect with others.

Claremont feels less isolated than many suburban, cookie-cutter communities. We are very conscious of our identity, and named neighborhoods are also special. Together our neighborhoods make us stronger. Yet, there is much we don’t know about the world we live in. I wonder what is overlooked about your neighborhood that the rest of us don’t know about.


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