Just now I was out in the back garden, moving the sprinkler, and I paused for a few moments to admire and wonder about some of the mysterious new tree saplings that have appeared under the cheery and nectarine trees this year. (The new saplings are neither cherries nor nectarines.)
Hearing a slight rustle in the mint bed behind me, I turned and was surprised to see a fairly large toad on the ground about four feet from me, facing away from me.
The main part of its dark grey body was slightly larger than my fist, with its bulbous head and legs extending slightly from that main center lump. (It didn’t really seem to have a neck to speak of.) As I watched for a few minutes, the creature — something about it said “toad” to me rather than “frog,” but I don’t know exactly what — hopped a few inches, paused for a minute or so, hopped and paused again, and in this way gradually moved over to another, less exposed part of the garden bed that has all the wild mint in it – the one under the apricot tree. As the toad passed through and paused in a sunny patch, I could see that its body was covered with irregular bumps and hollows – its skin was actually quite textured, though until it was spotlighted in the sunny patch, it had looked like nothing so much as an undistinguishable, sodden lump of mud. (Applied mindfulness lessons coming soon to a back yard near you!)
When the toad got to a well-protected, shady spot, it began intermittently rooting around in a desultory fashion, again making a motion or two and then stopping, returning to complete stillness after each minimal motion. Its stillness was definitely the larger portion of its stillness/motion ratio. (Maybe it’s a Zen student toad.)
I had the distinct urge to go and find Joe’s binoculars, and to set up an unobtrusive little naturalist’s observation station. But my day is already planned out with many high-priority activities.
Like many busy people these days, I only have high-priority appointments and activities in my calendar. In fact, nothing even makes it into my calendar until it becomes a high priority, and all those important intentions take up pretty much every moment of every day. But my days rarely end up actually looking the way I’ve planned them; so there still seems to be some time and space available for spontaneous prioritizing in the moment. And yet somehow I don’t feel nearly as in touch as I’d like to be with “the one who is not busy” . . .
Other than the birds high up in the trees (out of Jenna’s immediate reach) and the cockroaches on the ground, I really don’t get many opportunities to observe significant wildlife in our yards. The roadrunner that hung out with us for a year or two hasn’t been back since Jenna became an outdoor cat. And even in other people’s yards, the ones that we pass on our way to and from the co-op or Flying Star or Il Vicino, I’ve never seen a squirrel or even a gopher around here. So finding a toad in my back yard was pretty exciting! I wonder whether it will still be there after I get back from my Tai Chi class and my morning’s errands . . . I hope I remember to look.