Frogs and Toads

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

I have been surrounded by toads and frogs lately. I know what some of you might be thinking: Well, we are in a wetland, so there will be frogs and toads.

Although this is true, it seems there have been an unusual number of amphibians near me of late. If all started out right before I went to Colorado in July. I was mowing our lawn and came across many toads, including one that sat and watched me mow the area in which it had been resting before the deafening whir of the ancient push mower rousted it from it otherwise cool and quiet spot. I figured the Lawn Boy would scare the bejeezus out of it, but instead it sat nearly motionless and watched me. 

I have seen a toad at my house before, typically burrowed in the cool, shaded soil next to my front door. On this occasion, there were six that I counted, and maybe more, that came out of the shadows as a worked the mower around the lawn.

A toad in Wisconsin doesn’t seem so unusual, but my next encounter was with a toad in the high desert at our house in Colorado. My husband told me a couple of times that he had seen a toad when he was outside after dark. I was like, “Sure ya did.” 

Turns out, he actually did. The next time it was on the porch, he came and got me. To my surprise, there was a fat, grayish green, spotted toad hanging out next to a tiny flowerbed of mountain asters.

Of course I checked it out from all angles, and got a couple of photos of it before it hopped back into its lair under the porch. I headed inside to take a closer look at them and compare them to high desert toads indigenous to the area. I found it right away. The toad was a Sonoran Desert Toad, and it secretes poisonous venom from its eyes as well as the underside of its back legs. It is one of the toads that people will lick to try to get high because the venom has chemicals from the dimethylethanamine family, the natural equivalent to chemically made LSD. Aside from being hallucinogenic, its venom is powerful enough to kill a large dog.

“Great,” I thought, “now on top of rattle snakes, there is a toad that can kill me with its eye venom!”

It must have feared us as well, because he did not show his poisonous face after that night.

Right after I got home from Colorado, I noticed a gray tree frog on the railing of the deck. It was hanging out next to a bee watering dish I had constructed, and looked as though it had just been submerged before I arrived.

It stared at me, and didn’t seem to mind my presence. It then took refuge under a small space between the railing planter and deck railing. It would peek its head out from the little hollow, and catch insects on the cucumber that provided it camouflage. It lived there for a couple of days before disappearing one night.

After it was gone, I started wondering what does this mean being surrounded by frogs and toads? As someone who is not religious nor especially spiritual, I turned to the Internet. One site suggested it could be the reminder of a dead relative, someone that reminded me of frogs. “Well, that is possible,” I said to myself. After all, my great-grandmother had a frog collection, everything frogs, figurines, clothing, dishes, planters, you name it, she had it. 

The suggestion from a pagan website was that frogs and toads are a symbol of change and rebirth. “Okay, I can buy that,” I thought. “I have had a lot of changes lately.”

The next thing that occurred to me was one of my favorite and most feared Bible story in the book of Exodus when God threatens to release a plague of frogs on Egypt. I didn’t need the Internet for that one, I remember being terrified at the thought of a frog plague when I first heard this story as a child.

“Probably not a plague brought on by God,” I decided.

The month-long appearance of amphibians was troubling at first, no doubt, but in the end, I decided it was just the especially rainy weather, and coincidence that brought them to me.

Though I will be on the lookout for more signs of Grandma Clark, a rebirth or a frog plague, just to be on the safe side. 

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