Looks and Gazes

purslane

Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Source: Wikipedia

I gazed at starlings pecking across the grass beside motorous Washinton Street, next door to Forest Hills Station. It’s always my favorite place to watch the little, iridescent things. They skitter around, bright-eyed and yellow-beaked, grazing in the grass like rabbits.

At work a tiny toad scampered between our feet as we weeded purslane from pea gravel. I watched a red-tailed hawk glide down the sky.

Then there were the humans. A beggar on Mass Ave who could imitate a duck to perfection. The sweet teller who complimented Kira and I on our braids, hers French, mine Swedish. Roofers in life-saving suspenders kicking debris from concrete-colored shingles. Lastly, the operator within the bulldozer knocking out a building of dust along the Neoponset. I’d never know of the deconstruction if not for the lone spectators draped over the Fairmount bridge every morning, staring wistfully at the shovel as it hit the walls and ceilings, the metal and brick and plastic, while someone from below would hose down the dusty din with the arching water of a fireman’s truck.

The stuff nightmares are made of.

Today I’m editing a chapter of my book which is in part about the American Bullfrog, Rana catesbiana. It is our largest frog here in North America, impressive for its size (its hindlegs alone can grow up to ten inches long!), but especially for its appetite. In the words of Mary Cynthia Dickerson, author of The Frog Book, the bullfrog “is the green dragon of the pond,” and “will eat almost any moving object that it can swallow or partially swallow.” This includes birds, snakes, rodents, fish, young turtles, and even baby alligators. Opportunistic cannibals, they will also freely partake of the tadpoles and adults of their kind. You can see how these clawless, fangless, and venomless creatures are able to hunt so successfully in this excellent little video from National Geographic. It’s more than a little unsettling to think that if I suddenly shrank to four inches in height I would be eaten without a second thought if ever I were to wander about a pond in the summer. And judging by their treatment of birds, I’d go down tiny hair, tiny clothes, tiny shoes and all.

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