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The Bermudian

“Only three?”

A lovely Irish friend of ours was stunned at the volume of noise he heard outside our patio one evening during his first summer on the island.

“What’s making all that racket?” he asked.

“Oh, tree frogs,” came the reply.

“Sounds like a lot more than three to me,” exclaimed our darling friend in his most sincere and charming Irish brogue.

Ah, the tree frog. Or, in proper Latin, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei. Adorable and no bigger than the nail on your thumb. Which can explain why I missed seeing the sweet thing early one morning as I bounded down the stairs to fix coffee and stopped short when I felt something go squish beneath my feet. At first I thought that perhaps someone had just been sloppy with the spaghetti the evening before, but then the realization of what had just happened hit me full force. A poor little tree frog had obviously made its way into the house the evening before when all the doors were open and became trapped inside. As soon as I felt the evidence of life beneath my foot, I jumped away and hoped for the best. I witnessed the stunned little critter clumsily limp through a crack in the wall. To this day, I still hope that it was not his final resting place.

That he was even able to scamper away was startling in itself, given the size and weight discrepancy between us. I have always felt that no good can ever come from admitting your age, the number of romantic partners in your past or your weight. So don’t think I am going to ignore that mantra now. But suffice it to say that little tree frog experienced the equivalent of the Empire State Building toppling over on him and still had the fortitude to hop away.

Although I find these teeny creatures completely delightful now, I did not always feel that way. I remember trying to get to sleep one night when I first arrived on the island and heard an army of them outside my window. It was like living on the interstate during rush hour. How could anyone ever get any sleep on this island, I fumed. I tried heavy-duty wax earplugs. I put the air conditioner on high. Neither helped. It confounded and frustrated me that something so tiny could create such a big noise. I have felt similarly about howling infants no more than a foot long who could produce a sound more compatible with a man ten times their size.

Although puny, tree frogs are impressive by virtue of their sheer numbers and their devotion to amphibian amour. That is what all the noise is about! The males are wailing in song in hopes of finding a partner. Who knows what that little fella was chasing or running away from when he found temporary refuge inside our drawing room that fateful night of love gone bad.

I live in harmony with the tree frogs now. You do get used to them after a while. They become just another aspect of the island’s audio landscape much like the sound of the waves and the whoosh of the wind.

But then, all of sudden, the nights go quiet. Winter closes in and the tree frogs are gone. It’s the season of rest. But as sure as night follows day those amorous amphibians will return. All one billion of them. I thrill to hear their little voices call out for love as spring returns. Their call also serves as a reminder for us to tread lightly as small creatures could be under foot.

Winter 2010

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