“What is making all that racket?” an inquisitive friend of ours asked. It was his first summer on the island, and we watched as he searched in vain for the source of the noise beyond our patio.
“Oh, that? We almost don’t hear it anymore. Those are tree frogs.”
“Sounds like a lot more than ‘tree’ to me,” exclaimed our charming friend in his most sincere Irish brogue.
Ah, the tree frog. Or, in proper Latin, Eleutherodactylus johnstonei. Adorable and no bigger than the nail on your thumb. Which explains why I missed seeing the sweet thing early one morning as I bounded down the stairs to fix coffee and then stopped short when I felt something go *squish* beneath my feet. At first, I thought that perhaps someone had just been sloppy with their spaghetti the evening before. But then the realization of what had just happened hit me full force. A poor little tree frog had made its way into the house the evening before when all the doors were open and got trapped inside. Of course, as soon as I felt the evidence of life beneath my foot, I jumped away and hoped for the best. I witnessed the stunned little critter clumsily limp through a crack in the wall. To this day, I still harbor hope that crack was not his final resting place.
That he was even able to scamper away was startling in itself, given the size and weight discrepancy between us. I have always believed that no good can ever come from admitting your age, the number of romantic partners in your past, or your weight. So don’t think I am about to ignore that mantra now. But suffice it to say, our little tree frog experienced the equivalent of the Empire State Building toppling over on him and still had the fortitude to hop away.
Although I find these teeny creatures completely delightful now, I did not always. I remember trying to get to sleep one night when I first arrived on the island and heard an army of them outside my window. It was like setting up your bed on the interstate during rush hour. How was anyone ever supposed to get any sleep on this island? I fumed. I tried heavy duty wax earplugs. I put the air conditioner on high. Neither helped. It confounded and frustrated me that something so tiny could create such a big noise. I have had similar feelings towards howling infants no more than a foot long, capable of producing sounds more compatible to a man ten times their size.
Although puny, tree frogs are impressive by virtue of their sheer numbers and their devotion to amphibian amour. That’s what all the noise is about! The males are wailing in song in hopes of finding a partner. Who knows what that little fella was chasing or running away from when he found temporary refuge inside our drawing room that fateful night of love gone bad.
I live in harmony with the tree frogs now. You get used to them after a while. They become just another aspect of the island’s audio landscape, much like the sound of the waves and the whoosh of the wind.
Then one day, the nights go quiet. Winter closes in, and the tree frogs disappear. Winter is the season of rest. But as sure as night follows day, those amorous amphibians will return. All one billion of them. I thrill to hear their little voices call out for love once again as it hearkens the return of Spring. It also serves as a reminder that life comes in all shapes and sizes, and we must learn to tread lightly as small creatures could be underfoot.
Want to stay connected to the Land of Coconuts?
We'll send you island mail, fresh from the tropics each week.