Sunday, November 30, 2008
The launch of this blog, which I intend as a place for my little daily poems and photographs to land and live and have their being, coincides with Thanksgiving weekend 2008, which is also the weekend that we say goodbye to Polly the Frog. The Frog's passing is a delicate subject, so it fits.
Polly lived for about 24 years (the exact year she arrived in the mail as a pollywog in a little plastic bag has been forgotten) in a fishbowl on the dresser in the dining room in my parents' house. It was also, of course, my house for much of that time. Now, suddenly, the dresser is empty of Frog. The moment I found her lying at the bottom of her bowl with one eye looking really funny, and not having moved for a full day, I thought This is the end of my childhood. Which is a funny thought to have when you're 29.
My friend P.'s mother C. liked to compare the Frog to the priest at her church. The priest would spread his arms out to the sides in a gesture of blessing. Polly's arms were always out to the side. She was a very simple being, with a tiny nervous system inside her off-gold skin. We hoped her nervous system was too small to be upset that her life was lived out entirely in a plain bowl with no diversion. Sunlight came through the windows during the day. My father fed her faithfully every evening and changed her water when it got green. To do so he had to catch her in a net. She'd thrash inside it during the few seconds between leaving the bowl and entering the temporary smaller bowl. You could see her little ribs, and while she fought she seemed to have little pecs and collarbones. Her hind feet were webbed with a material that would sometimes flutter when she lay still. She had a singing voice that sounded like a river of microscopic pebbles.
I would be very pleased to live a delicate life. Being delicate seems like the best thing. You aren't very well protected against being hurt or disappointed. You do your best to look at what is around you and manage illusion. I'll quote Suzuki-roshi, since he had a special place in his heart for frogs:
"When we first hear that everything is a tentative existence, most of us are disappointed; but this disappointment comes from a wrong view of man and nature. It is because our way of observing things is deeply rooted in our self-centered ideas that we are disappointed…"
Which brings me to my shame about the way I thought of the Frog. I always worried that I was going to find her dead. Eventually, I did. But for years I didn't look at her without thinking about her passing. She seemed to us all to have lived so much longer than a Grow-a-Frog was supposed to. I wanted to prepare myself, to cushion the blow, to make there be no blow. Once or twice a year I'd acknowledge what I was doing. And I'd make myself stand there for a second and just see Frog.
A friend of mine once proposed that love is just being gentle and giving your full attention. As far as I know, the Frog lived a less complicated life than humans do. But, bless her, she was gentle (she was gentleness) and gave her full attention.