It has been a strange summer so far. For us, it is now official; July 2018 has been the hottest month on record according to the local NOAA weather station. And it was very dry too. I know that weather is not climate, but I also know that things are trending in a direction that implies big changes are happening right in our own backyards. Anyone who has lived in this region for more than 20 years can see the changes themselves in the weather, the animals and even the plants. It is all unsettling for those of us who live close to the earth and love the diversity with which we like to track the seasonal rhythms.
Here where I live, one of the things we’d look forward to in mid summer was the hatching of the toad population. This generally occurred in mid July. Sometimes the 3rd week but most often it was right in the middle of July that we’d see them appear….the tiniest of perfectly formed toads. So small that 2 could comfortably sit on a dime with space in-between them.
It was a milestone we could always count on, like the arrival of the first ripe strawberries, or fireflies in June. Or hearing the Whip-o-will up on the corner by the deep forest, or the first song of the Tree Frogs in May. All harbingers of the cycle of summer. Just as the goldenrod and monarch butterflies signal the subtle shift in the tilt of the earth’s axis towards autumn. But the toads were always a highlight. There would be scores of them all around the perimeter of the house….probably due to all the great toad holes all my gardens provided. There would be so many that I’d have to warn visitors to mind where they stepped because the tiny creatures could not get out from under a footfall in enough hops, so we needed to be careful.
But this year was hotter than ever. And drier. And though I kept hoping to see them, the tiny toads remained elusive. I suspected it might be a “bad” year because I saw only 2 adult toads in my garden all spring/summer which was for me a record low number. Still, I was hopeful that perhaps the toads where just hiding deeper in their holes or under the leaves due to the scorching sun. And I waited. And waited. And began to give up hope.
Then last week the weather turned and we had a few damp, grey days…and some vitally needed rains. And finally, today, nearly 2 weeks late, I spied 3 baby toads in the garden and was much relieved though I know that being 2 weeks late may mean they may not have the right kind of insects to eat, or they may face larger predators since the snakes and birds did not slow down their raising of young. So, when I find them, I rejoice and move the ones I find in the driveway over to the gardens, hoping that will help them survive a little better.
I’m reminded of the story about the thousands of starfish washed up on the shore after a storm and how one person was tossing them back into the sea to save them. A passer-by stopped and commented about how futile the gesture was… how it ultimately could not make a difference because too many were washed up and would die anyways. The first person just stooped and picked up another starfish and threw it in the water. “Maybe” they said “But at least I can make a difference for THAT one”.
What difference will you make this week, for the tiny things of this earth?