Friday, November 13, 2009

Froggie Courtin'

I stepped through the doorway of the log cabin we were renting in beautiful Belleisle Bay, New Brunswick. I wiggled into dew dampened sneakers that had spent the night on the deck. Hitching my camera over my shoulder, I grabbed my travel mug off the railing and walked into the bush, following a well worn path through the crowd of ferns. Silver clouds blocked the sun and the patter of rainfall surrounded me. Looking more closely into the glossy green forest revealed the source was not rain falling, but condensed fog cascading from leaf to leaf. I remained gratefully dry other than my sneakers, which were now quite saturated with the morning dew.

As I approached the pond I was thrilled to see it calm and blanketed by mist. It was literally picture perfect, but I worried the fog wouldn't show in the photos. The morning before, I had taken some shots with my small digital camera and from what I could see on the screen, the fog was invisible. I eased myself into a weathered Adirondack chair on the sandy shore and sipped my coffee, content within the peaceful scene. I was fascinated and mesmerized by the action on the pond’s surface. Even though a climatology course had taught me the scientific explanation for fog, I was still drawn into the illusion that it was a separate entity skimming across the smooth water. The wind forced the mist in front of it, pushing it around the pond in whispy vapours that swirled and skated across the glassy surface like a swarm of ghosts, all joined in a rousing game of crack the whip in the frosty hereafter. Silly old wind, trying with all his might to blow it all away. Whether an overcoat, or a coat of mist, the sun would win once more.

Suddenly, a loud, drawn out breeee-DEEEEP echoed across the stillness. A moment later the response came from my side of the pond; a brief and comical boy-yoing! as though a bass guitar string had let go under the strain of someone slowly winding, winding… it’s almost right …but… snap! ....oops, too much. A few minutes later it sounded again - breee-DEEEEP … two…three…four… boy-yoing! I continued to sip and stare at the dancing fog, hypnotic as a campfire. The frogs carried on with their mating song. It wasn’t a constant tune, more of a call and response, an occasional "You there?" followed by "yup!".
A couple of canoes and two small kayaks lay bottoms up on the beach. I flipped the yellow kayak upright, retrieved a paddle from a nearby shack, hung my camera carefully around my neck and launched myself onto the water. The surface was so still and perfectly reflective, I hated the thought of marring the pristine glass with my tiny wake. Yet it had its own beauty too; silky, undulating waves, fracturing and gently warping the reflections, sending its ever shrinking echoes across the pond.

My goal was to find “King Henry” as I had named him.. My image of Henry the Eighth did not jive at all with “The Tudors” TV lead, all buff and attractive. Some painting in my memory showed a more bloated version dressed in a brown spotted tunic with pleated sleeves and a russet cape. I inched my way slowly and carefully, camera at the ready, paddle angling in the drink, trying to slow the boat's progress and not disturb anything. I spied his Lordship ensconced comfortably at the edge of the pond surrounded by grasses and half submerged, all round and large and brown and glistening. His supple chin bubbled in and out as he blinked lazily at me, his gaze filled with distain. I tried to slow the boat's momentum without startling him, reading my camera, slowly getting closer..... closer.... now? no, not yet, closer....closer...not....doh! Too close! He dove quickly under water. Chastising myself for missing a great shot, I decided I'd be less stingy with my next attempts and crossed the pond to see if I could find Miss Boleyn.I found the photography much more satisfying on the other side and took extra shots in the effort to keep from missing a good one. These frogs were mostly green and typically, frog looking where as Henry was more brown and spotted, appearing very much like the bloated lord and master that I had recalled. I decided to do a little frog canvas and slowly paddled around the pond. I thought I might come up with 17 altogether, but as it turned out there was 24 at my count. King Henry had many options it seemed and in the froggy world, I would imagined he would be something to lose your head over.

Across from the beach I snuck up on one beautiful specimen who looked as though he'd been plated in brass. After capturing a good shot I turned back towards the last spot I had seen his Lordship. I discovered I only had one picture left and thought I’d try one more time. I looked towards the beach, surprised to see that my husband had arrived on little cat feet, sitting quietly in the chair beside the one I had occupied earlier.

"You're very stealthy." I called out, feeling a welcome rush of pleasure that he was there, yet somewhat embarrassed to be observed with my guard down.

"Well, you looked like you were being very stealthy yourself." he called back.

All thoughts of photographing King Henry left my mind. My kayak turned toward the beach drawn by an undeniable force of nature. I dipped my paddle in the water once more and set out for the shore, intent on capturing my own frog prince.