Sunday, May 25, 2008

Croaking to a fade out

IT took about two or three years before the three resident toads in our home garden turned from egg globs to full grown croakers. A pregnant toad mom must have strayed into our home yard one night, hopped into a rainwater-filled Vigan jar there to latch a jelly-like nursery sac replete with eggs on the jar’s rim. Delivery done, she had hopped on to parts unknown, never seeing how her eggs hatched into tadpole-youngsters to swim with several damselfly nymphs and daphnia teeming in that jar…

That soft-shelled turtle found at a nearby creek, brought home, and dumped in that jar by my youngest child, that turtle must have gorged and grew fat on the hundreds of hatched tadpoles before crawling out scot-free…thank goodness. Out of less than a dozen tadpoles, three toughed it out hanging on to life.

‘Twas odd that their metamorphosis took 2-3 years. It only took weeks for toad eggs to turn up as fledgling princes-to-be… our resident toads must have taken their time enjoying the security of an earthen jar before taking leap off into an unfamiliar terrain.

They really didn’t venture out far. So content to hop about in our garden where pet cats didn’t mind them. The dogs sometimes did, before, barking and nudging with their snouts or paws at the toad hinnies… a cornered toad either feigned death or hopped away from curious cur with nary a plaint.

Peaceful coexistence now reigns among these pets, uh, wart-studded toads aren’t exactly cuddlesome critters—the mutts let ‘em toads give lots of tongue lashing at the wee flies browsing on leftover dog food or a lapping of freshly hatched mosquito larvae… ah, toads took care of nuisances somehow…

Nope, we skipped giving out names for those three hopscotch players, even if that rock group Three Dog Night seemed keen on a “Joy to the World”: “Jeremiah was a poor frog, was a good friend of mine, I never understood a single word he said but I always helped him drink his wine… if he had some mighty fine wine… And we’re singing joy to the world!”

Earfuls of echoing “e-q-q-q” or guttural “q-r-r-r—q” they’ve been singing in the rain after darkness falls, those strange syllables don’t sound joyous at all. Too solemn jeremiads, if you ask me… like the tolling of strange bells at vespers hour. But, they’re somehow soothing, as calming as the keening of crickets and cicadas.

And I must admit the toads ply some sense in those paeans, but I’d hesitate to lay bare their eldritch significance. Why, they’re straight off the garland of skulls—each a letter of Sanskrit, a language supposedly built solely for worship and offering of prayers —worn around the neck of the Hindu deity Kali… It’s not odd for those toads to hang out around the home yard, they serve a special purpose.

“Ah, sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head…” I’ve not been keen on finding whatever jewel that is in our toads… but some texts in ancient Chinese medicine I’ve stumbled into point out that the soft jelly-like spittle of toads go into preparations for curing consumption—probably diabetes or phthisis both of which can gnaw away the stricken body.

If toad spittle can stave off consumption, there must be reason why Nature is doing an embargo of sorts, allowing humans to pig out all they can. For reasons that biologists haven’t figured out yet, frogs and toads are disappearing globally.

Global leader in mindless consumption: the United States of America. Should the rest of the world’s populations ape American consumption habits, the entire renewable and non-renewable resources of the planet need to be multiplied 5.3 times every nine months to cater to such colossal voracity. Sumisibasib sa kasibaan…

All along, we’ve been hearing portents from the chorus of croakers in our patch of Eden… They don’t toady, those toads.

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