What do you do when you realize at 2:00 in the morning that the small brown spot on the carpet is not a spot of gravy or coffee, but is actually a small, flat frog? After all, who hasn’t inadvertently stepped on a frog in the middle of the night? He didn’t exactly seem to be dead but he was none too lively, either.
Here on the edge of a designated wetland, we seem to have frog plagues of biblical proportions at least monthly, but usually the critters are bright green, small and lively. I didn’t want to give too much thought to how this frog happened to be brown, motionless, flat—and in the middle of my carpet. I will tell you right now that there are very few sources for advice on what to do with a flat frog at 2:00 in the morning. Get out any housekeeping book you want. How many tips for removing a frog do you find? Zero, that’s how many.
I pondered strategies for froggie resuscitation and even issued myself a deadline. If my unexpected guest hadn’t moved by 2:30 a.m., I would declare it officially in a state of demise and conduct a ceremonial flushing.
Many of my friends suggested that I might have brought PacFroggie inside and put him in a terrarium. I laid the problem before Marc Hayes at the venerable Burke Museum in Seattle. “People who try to make pets of tree frogs usually don’t keep them very long,” Marc Hayes observes. “They’ll only eat live bugs—so you have to get them live fruit flies (I think he meant the frogs, not the people). “Then you have to encourage the fruit flies to go in and get eaten, so it can get to be very time consuming.”
Hayes quoted the wisdom of the First Nation people of Canada. They believe that the frog embodies lessons of the past and hope for the future. That seems a lot to expect of a little creature barely an inch long, but Marc said what people desperately need in these uncertain times is hope for the future in the context of the avalanche of problematic environmental issues. The sensitivity of frogs, he feels, should allow us a way to develop hope for a good future. One of today’s greatest challenges, Marc continued, is climate change, because if we can limit climate change in a manner that keeps amphibians successful, we will likely maintain a better world for ourselves.
Can’t I just put him back into the marsh?” “Your home is his habitat now. You can’t throw him away.” “If he turns into a prince, I’m keeping him,” I said sulkily. “You can’t own a human being,” Hayes replied firmly.
Condo living does call for adjustments from both frog and human residents. The siding is being removed and replaced on our pocket paradise. We were instructed to move our plants inside while the work was done. I suppose this frog came in with one of the big plants, got up and wandered around in the night looking for a drink of water, and just flattened out. I’m just sure I didn’t step on him. Probably.
Finally, it was time for action, so holding my breath, I dropped a white paper napkin shroud over the amphibian, hummed a brisk chorus of Amazing Grace and carried the intruder out to the twofoot green strip that is my garden. I released him. That is to say, I shook the napkin vigorously and ran back in the house, slamming the door behind me.
Inspirational humorist Chris Clarke-Epstein says that each of us should keep a list of 100 things we want to learn. As goals are reached, you cross items off the list and add more. Not as easy as it sounds, but editing the list gives you something to do in the middle of the night when there’s a frog on the floor and you can’t sleep. I first wrote about the frogs in 2005 when I moved to Frog Acres and it seems the need to learn and understand is greater than ever. I want to learn Spanish, I want to learn to do the tango. I want to lead Tai Chi on Zoom. I’m coming to think every- one should prepare a Crisis Kit for handling unexpected midnight emergencies. It would contain batteries for the smoke alarm, chocolate for strength, and a little plastic cup with a lid for catching frogs. There’s got to be a prince in there somewhere.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a humor columnist. Contact her at itsnevertoolate.com