Which Way Did They Go?

Photo of a tree frog on a leafThe sounds of a summer night are hard to isolate. They blend together in a concert of vibrations variously created, each overlapping and interlacing the other. Sometimes breezes in leaves accompany a concerto of crickets or cicadas; sometimes a full orchestra of insects is punctuated with the call of owls and the percussion of deer hooves on rocky slopes.

Summer sounds are unlike spring’s chorus when there can be no doubt that tree frogs command the spotlight provided by the moon, singing solo and in quartets and choirs. Tree frogs herald spring and announce a new generation. Glistening necklaces of shimmering eggs appear in the pond in the aftermath of their performances. But tree frogs grow silent as summer approaches. Soon tiny tadpoles appear in ponds and puddles. I have watched them grow. Small legs appear alongside tails. Legs grow larger; tails smaller. By mid-summer the pond no longer sports these amphibians. They have taken to land–although not, as their name implies, to the trees.

This year I bid adieu to the frogs when I could no longer find them swimming in the pond and wished them well. Where they disappear to and how they live until spring when they come noisily back to cast quivering beads in every puddle and pool is a mystery to me.

Then early one morning this week, while watering plants in the garden, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement on a leaf. Thinking it was probably a leaf hopper (or grass hopper to those of us raised in the Midwest) I leaned down to take a closer look. There, to my great delight, was a tree frog no bigger than my thumbnail hopping from leaf to leaf, and finally ducking under a shrub. So that’s where they went! Lovely light brown with a black and tan stripe by its eye, I am sure I recognized it as one of the tadpoles I had seen in the pond a month or two ago. Older–yes, but I connected again as if we had seen each other only yesterday.

And so it goes with good friends. There are those I have known in years past whose daily lives have diverged from mine. Sometimes we meet again many years later, and it is as if we had never parted–those I once worked with or students I knew from my days in the classroom. They moved on, or I did, graduated or left  to chart courses unknown. I wished them well, knowing I might never see them again.

Every now and then I hear how those I once knew are faring. But sometimes there is a surprise or two in store. Just occasionally I recognize someone, or they recognize me. Connections are made. I no longer need imagine what happened to them. They are once again real, as real as the frogs–frogs I know well–hopping about in my very real garden.