Conversation with a Frog

Donald Shephard

I have a few moments of blissful solitude everyday. I sit, leaning against a favorite tree stump, looking out over Caspar Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I watch osprey circling to gain altitude as they ferry a fish back to their nest. I watch the turkey vultures wobbling flight and shake my fist at them saying, “Not yet! I’m not ready yet!” I sit silently, listening to the wind in the cypress tree and watching the winter wren complain in the pile of brush I have cleared ready for burning season. I frequently see wild turkeys and mule deer. I always speak to them in the belief that it calms them down and will allow me a closer look.

“Hello, my dears,” I say. It is a quirk in my nature that the same pun tickles me every time. The deer do not smile. I still don’t know what amuses them.

Today, as I sat against my usual stump, I saw a Green Tree Frog. Normally they are quite handsome amphibians but this one was ugly. I don’t know what it was about the frog. Perhaps his eyes bulged more than usual or the green lacked its natural sheen. It was a world-weary frog. It was just a little different but, hey, diversity is a good thing so I spoke to the frog anyway.

“Good morning, Mr. Tree Frog,” I said.

“Good morning to you, sir,” replied the frog.

“It is a lovely day, today. Unusually warm for this time of year,” I said.

“Yes, indeed. Have you lived here long?” He asked.

“I’ve lived here only since May.”

“I meant have you lived in this country long?”

“Oh! I see. Forgive me. You must have noticed my accent. I came here from England nearly forty years ago.”


“Yes.” I am not quite used to a frog challenging my veracity. Still it is a good thing to check now and then, especially if you write.

“I just got off the boat myself,” said the tree frog.

“And where did you come from?” I asked.

“Iraq,” he replied. “It was getting hard to hear myself croak. Many of my sons croaked before their first croak, if you see what I mean.”

“Yes, I do. I was born into a country during wartime myself, World War II,” I said. “You wouldn’t remember that war or the Vietnam War. During the latter, there was an adage ‘War is not healthy for children and other living things.’ ”

“Especially frogs,” piped up Mr. Tree Frog. We seemed to be getting along famously. He had a bit of an accent what with being Arabic speaking and an amphibian but his command of English was excellent. His “ribet” sounded more like “ribbette” with the emphasis on the last syllable. Having this feeling of bonhomie, or to be politically correct, bonfroggie, I asked him if he understood the United States invasion of his native country, Iraq.

He was knowledgeable on the issues, lucid on every point. He gave a cogent tour de force on American policy. He clarified many aspects which had been puzzling me. Why had we invaded to get Al Quida out when Al Quida was not in Iraq? Why had we invaded to find weapons of mass destruction when there were none? Why we said we were getting rid of an evil ruler who condoned torture yet we torture people? Why we think “smart bombs” can bring democracy? Why the faith-based community in America has faith in the village idiot? And why, in a country that prides itself in freedom of expression, I am now considered unpatriotic for asking these questions? Mr. Tree Frog explained it all to me until it was crystal clear. I dozed off in the afternoon sun relieved to know that all is well in Iraq. My wife, Colleen, roused me from my reveries by bashing on the gong by our front door. Boing! Boing! The sound shattered my memory. What were the answers? Alas! I had forgotten them all.

When several minutes had passed and I had not come in to dinner, Colleen came out to get me. Finding me with my head in a sword fern, she asked, “What are you looking for, Donald?”

“I’m looking for an Arabic speaking Tree Frog to explain George W. and Iraq to me.”

“Aren’t we all?” she said.

Back to ... Political Essays | Home page