After many days of sweltering heat, the morning was glorious. I veered off the main trail onto a side loop past Wood Duck Pond. As I walked past smaller inlets toward the larger body of water, I heard occasional movement through the trees. The sound resembled something larger moving through the dense brush, like a deer. So, I stopped frequently, peering through the leaves.
Seeing nothing, I suddenly heard a remarkably loud noise ahead on the trail. I walked toward the sound, growing ever louder. Honking? I had heard a similar cacophony when geese were fighting over ownership of a particular spot. The volume increased with each step.
I crested a small rise and could now see the pond stretching into the distance. I realized that the voices I now heard were not birds, but a vast chorus of frogs. Their range was somewhat limited, but I could still pick out dozens of croaks ranging from second alto to perhaps baritone in pitch.
I walked carefully, not wanting to interrupt the performance. But, my presence seemed to affect the singers little. I approached the edge of the path, which then dropped a dozen feet or so quickly into the water. The overgrowth, however, kept me from seeing my crooners.
In my mind, these frogs could only be massive. The local acoustics were certainly not conducive, and yet they belted out their notes clearly. I envisioned soccer ball-sized amphibians crouched along the shore, with perhaps a conductor perched on a convenient lily pad.
A splash. Then another. Finally, I managed to follow one into the water and spotted his head. Why, these creatures were surprisingly small, no larger than the palm of my hand. Once I got the knack of spotting them, I saw them everywhere. Heads popping up out the water all around, with bellowing cheeks puffing up. Absolutely amazing how so much sound can come from such a tiny body.
I don’t know why, but I felt giddily joyous and could not repress a smile. Listening to this ensemble brought me true glee as I listened. The sound overwhelmed everything and I become lost in the music. The sound dominated the area, almost assuming a physical presence.
In the last years of his far too short life, jazz musician John Coltrane worked on a concept called a “wall of sound.” The intent was for the music to come together literally into a solid wall, so that the listener no longer distinguished individual notes. Some of the best examples seem, to ears unaccustomed to this music, almost noise. But, Coltrane had experienced a spiritual awakening and was pursuing what he considered cosmic music.
The din of my little green frog concerto brought me close to that sound. And when you hear that cosmic wall of sound, only joy results.
(please forgive the poor quality of the video – I didn’t even realize my phone took videos until I tried this morning)