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February 28, 2021

Mary Gardner: A few of my favourite things

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A frog sunning itself on a leaf - one of environment writer Mary Gardner's favourite things. Photo Mary Gardner
A frog sunning itself on a leaf – one of environment writer Mary Gardner’s favourite things. Photo Mary Gardner

Mary Gardner

One of my favourite things is meeting this frog. Her presence is a small sweet confirmation of the power without name. A tiny fertile egg had become a tadpole and then an adult. Food was there when needed. The water was fresh and uncontaminated. The leaves which were once shelter from sun now become platforms for sunning. Earlier, two frogs mated, having experienced all of that living for themselves. They in turn were the result of living that goes back from one individual to another along millions of years.

Another of my favourite things is the shiny green leaves emerging from the water. Submerged roots anchor the stalks of leaves. These parts also create a bridge from the nutrition of mud to that of air and sunlight. The power without name appears green with streaks of red and yellow. It tastes of the sugars and starches of the tissues of the plant. This plant, like the frog, is another result of living that also stretches back over all those barely imaginable years.

Maybe my favourite thing is water. Improbable compound of hydrogen and oxygen, defining this entire planet. Here, in this sultry season, it exists as cool liquid below as well as high clouds above. Tween these states, it is that vapour enveloping skins, fur and feathers. The humidity that all of us creatures inhale and share again as exhalations, sweat, spit, urine and tears. The haze off the sea. The evaporation that gently blurs the long view from a hilltop or along the beach. Such power and with no name.

Frogs are favourite symbols of transformation. European stories tell of princes caught in spells and turned into amphibians. To become human again, the drama looks the alchemy of love. Chinese stories also tell of frogs but more often as characters who are wise advisors in their own right. They have already come through the change of self. In the stories, the human characters listen to the frog’s reports of meeting with a nameless power. The message guides them closer to the reality made of many lives all tangled together.

My favourite thing is that I do encounter a frog, a plant or water. The whirl of entirely human enterprise can act as a set of blinkers or a blindfold. I appreciate these interruptions. They are opportunities to hear about the conditions and circumstances of others. There are so many encounters to be had: with the red dragonfly, an old gum tree or the edge of a cyclone far far away.

Some places seem more likely settings but these encounters can be everywhere. When I think slowly about it, I admit encounters require something else. Some cooperation is occurring, on scales I cannot entirely comprehend. What I do know is that I, like other people, are constantly prepped to notice better and observe more carefully. Some of this I learn this from some one who learned from some other in a network of noticing and telling that reaches further and further back in time.

One more favourite thing of mine is to hear and tell of all this. Continuity is a strong part of this world; maybe more so than change. To hold on and through time could be the more difficult role.

I often wonder what any frog remembers of being a tadpole. Do tadpoles anticipate becoming frogs?

Such questions, lolling in the hot air and humidity. Like this season, they are another one of my favourite things.






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