Amphibious Ambivalence


This is Jeremiah….


While it may be hard to assess his true size from this picture, Jeremiah is one big dude of a bullfrog.

He’s been a resident of my little backyard pond for a few years now and, until recently, I gave both his size and presence little thought. In fact I considered him an indication of the well being and proper balance of my pond, which I refer to as “my piece of Heaven on Earth.”

bluechair Edit

This pond was a birthday gift from my family, created out of a gaping hole left by a huge black walnut tree downed in a winter storm. The tree fell perfectly, missing the house, deck and fenced dog yard. It was as if it laid itself down along a predetermined arrow indicating the only clear path. The hole ran deep into the dense clay soil of our yard, soil so difficult to dig it has forced all my gardening efforts into raised beds and patio pots. It takes hours, HOURS, to dig a hole deep enough for small shrubs or perennials. When heavy spring rains filled the hole, my husband joked “Oh look, you’ve got the pond you always wanted.”

Hmmmm, funny how seeds of ideas are planted.

This fortuitous hole, I might add, sat next to a pole with an electrical outlet. Hmmmm, indeed.

It would however take a few more seasons for my husband to get the fallen tree cleared. By then the hole was overgrown with weeds and frost imminent. The next spring, my young daughter and I diligently cleared the weeds, anticipating pond construction which did not occur, as my husband artfully avoided the herculean effort he knew it would take to work the dense ground. The cycle of weed, wait, “whatever”, winter repeated itself for a few more years. Finally, in the summer of 2008, my daughter (then eleven) insisted that my husband help her give Mom the “only thing she really wanted” for her birthday.


The two of them spent days clearing roots, working the hole into a wider, deeper, smoother oval.


They shaped ledges on the sides for plants, and a deep bowl in the center far below the freeze line, where fish could safely hibernate through our long, frigid Central New York winters.  With the help of my son-in-law Joe, they build a waterfall on one side.

JoeEdit waterfallEdit

It was back breaking labor during two of the hottest summer weeks that year. We stocked the pond with an assortment of colorful goldfish. I convinced my daughter to give the brilliant orange comet she had won at the State Fair a shot at pond life.


“George” (think Audrey Hepburn’s fountain buddy in “Sabrina”) had beat the survival odds of most State Fair prize fish having out grown several tanks over two years. I convinced her the pond would be paradise since the 20 gallon tank he had grown into was the limit we could go for an indoor habitat.


Frogs also took up residence almost immediately. Their evening serenade added music to my corner of Heaven on Earth. Every spring there are mats of frog eggs, wiggling tadpoles and eventually many tiny frogs. George and his entourage of friends have also provided several colorful new generations. It seems the fish and frogs have worked out a balance of how many eggs, tadpoles and fry they each consume. Balance. This is the significance of my pond.


There is a unique quality to the peace I receive in the moments I spend sitting pondside. I believe it comes from the gratitude that fills my heart each time I sit in my favorite Adirondack chair drinking from the well of love my family put into this creation. Peace and gratitude to fuel me for the challenges of the day ahead. Peace and gratitude as the waterfall washes away the sting of hurtful words. Peace and gratitude as a colorful parade of fish reminds me of life’s simple beauty. Peace and gratitude as frog songs lull a troubled mind to sleep.

FishEdit  zenfrogEdit

Which brings me back to Jeremiah, Jeremiah the bullfrog. You see the other day it suddenly occurred to me that JtB has gotten awfully large this year and the colorful parade seems to have a few less citizens of late. This proved a challenge to my sense of balance and “live and let be” approach to most residents of my yard. Do I leave Jeremiah be, or relocate him to a local wetland in the interest of maintaining our fish community? Does JtB have an unfair advantage, in this predator free environment that provides an easy source of food? The fish after all have no escape route and limited hiding places.

As long as some fish remain, I am willing to take a wait and see approach. For the moment I feel no pressure to make an immediate decision. Summer is waning quickly. All too soon “Lake George” will be frozen over.  JtB may not resurface in the spring.


We have small fry from the pond thriving in George’s former fish tank for restock if need be. This willingness to relinquish control, a genuine ambivalence about an amphibious threat to balance in my life is truly significant for someone so often “in control” of so much.


Let time take its course. Life will go on.


Pete and Emma resting after many days of hard work….considering  ” hot tub or pond ?”

Deborah H Rahalski


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