…which is, roughly, what “amphibian” means.
I am engaged in illustrating a children’s book involving a frog. A North American Green Frog (Rana clamitans according to many sources on the ‘nets, though other sciencey names crop up too, and I have no notion which one is considered most accurate by the Community), or so I have determined. Doing these pictures involves me deeply in my own ignorance: do frogs jump sideways? what happens to their forelegs when they jump? how do they use their “hands”? what does it look like when they blink? how many toes on those extremities, anyway? The ether is full of frog stuff, not all of it immediately germane, but I keep picking and drilling away at the large lump of Jeez-I-really-have-NO-idea I suffer from, in regard to Green Frogs … and almost all of the picking and drilling has been done online.
But today! I was working on some website stuff at the home studio of my former boss, with whom I freelance sometimes, and as is the established custom, I took her Bichon Frise, Josie, out for a short walk at lunchtime. My boss lives in a small tract development that was quite gently slotted, sometime back in the late ’50s, into a hilly, woodsy, northern-New-Jersey parcel of land which includes a small complex of woodland ponds connected by swampy ground. The pathway beside the largest pond, which I guess to be maybe 1-1/4 miles in circumference, is one of our regular lunchtime routes.
I saw a frog! I’ve heard bullfrogs there, so I knew there were some. Also, on several occasions during the warm months, as dog and I made our noisy large-animal way down the dirt path by the water’s edge, I’ve heard a sudden high-pitched chirp and then a small splash. But today, immersed as I am in frog-consciousness, was my first actual glimpse! Cheep – and the speed of the little missile arcing into shallow water, with just a fleeting impression of the long, webbed hind feet stretched out behind and muscular hind legs slightly flexed at the knees.
People keep them as pets, going to all sorts of elaborate trouble to house and feed and keep them healthy. Yet it seemed to me that that swift, elusive, wild-animal’s leap, the gift of millennia of evolution, is somehow at the heart of frogdom. Or at least, of North American Green Frogdom.