Things are heating up in and around our pond. The frog population is booming and, sensing the coming of fall, the alpha frogs, if there are alphas among amphibians, are mating like mad.
Frog sex is a Zen thing. The male climbs aboard the much larger female and puts his little arms around as much of her abdomen as he can reach. She wraps her hands around a couple of dwarf cattail stems, and the lovers float languidly in the water until Bisou comes rushing out the back door and puts an end to the tomfoolery.
This ho-hum interlude, however, is preceded by a much more exciting one: the battle of the males. I witnessed this for the first time yesterday while I was roasting eggplants. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some unusual splashing in the pond and went out to investigate.
Two medium-size males, green-backed and yellow-bellied, were wrestling among the lily pads. They had their arms around each other\’s necks and were tumbling and leaping in and out of the water, blowing up their vocal sacs and croaking non-stop. They looked like little bald, round-bellied men in a bar fight.
Meanwhile, at the edge of the pond, sat the Rubenesque she-frog, impassive as a buddha. Was she as bored as she looked? Had she already decided which contender she would take to the cattails? Was she flattered to be the object of a duel?
I didn\’t stick around to see who won, just as I didn\’t stick around to watch the end of the tryst. I trust that the frogs know what they\’re about. Reproduction is hardly their problem: our pond is brimming over with froglets no bigger than a walnut and pigeon-sized matriarchs. And all night long their twanging song (\”brekekekex-koax-koax,\” according to Aristophanes) is the background music of my sleep.
In other pond news, after three years of throwing tiny goldfish into the water and watching them instantly disappear, I had given up all hope of ever seeing any of them again. Then yesterday, when I was least expecting it, two fish, one a good 5\” in length, showed up near the surface. I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to see again something that you thought was gone forever. The bigger of the two must have survived the winter in the deep end (in Vermont a depth of 3 1/2\’ supposedly guarantees that the pond won\’t freeze solid). The smaller one, a striking orange decorated with black spots, I remember putting in last May.
Encouraged by this development, I promptly bought two more fair-sized goldfish at the pet store. While I was floating their plastic bags on the pond to let them get accustomed to the water temperature, I saw that the two resident fish had swum up to inspect them. I cut open the bags, and now all four of them are hanging out companionably (or perhaps waiting for a chance to kill each other) and looking gorgeous among the lily pads. Every ten minutes I go out and tell them what good fish they are.
Will they still be there tomorrow, or will they have retreated into the murky depths? Will the frog wars abate? Will the lovemaking succeed and the ensuing tadpoles survive to spawn next summer?
I have so little control over any of this. All I can do is top up the water with the hose if it doesn\’t rain for a couple of days, and then stand and watch. I thought that having a little pond would be fun, but I wasn\’t prepared for the melodrama.