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Small Frogs Killed on the Highway

September 5, 2014

What a long, strange summer it’s been.

I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, Aurora, Illinois, St. Francisville, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Charleston, South Carolina, London, England, and Vancouver, British Columbia. In between, I got what my friend Miriam used to call a “letter of ruin” about work, successfully countered it with evidence, had some dinners and parties with our grown-up kids and our friends and their grown-up friends, and tried going out to the lake a couple of times even though the weather was cool and rainy every time we tried it, and the lake never really warmed up this summer.

Now Eleanor is back at Grinnell for her senior year, Walker is at Oberlin for his sophomore year, and Ron and I are settling down in slightly new roles at Kenyon, just new enough to keep them interesting.

photo-363I started the summer feeling like it was time for a James Wright poem, and I’m ending it feeling like it’s time for another, still with my heart on the highway, looking forward to more road trips like the one we will make soon to take Walker the bookshelf he forgot for his dorm room, the trek down to Harveysburg for the Ohio Renaissance Festival, the long drive to Iowa for “family weekend” at the end of September, and a trip to Missouri to see Ron’s family on the first weekend of October. It’s glorious to drive around on small, rural highways in the fall, but it always feels murderous—if you manage to dodge the deer, possums, skunk, and raccoons trying to cross the road, you’re slamming into butterflies and the occasional slow-reacting bird. James Wright drove these roads.

Small Frogs Killed on the Highway

I would leap too
Into the light,
If I had the chance.
It is everything, the wet green stalk of the field
On the other side of the road.
They crouch there, too, faltering in terror
And take strange wing. Many
Of the dead never moved, but many
Of the dead are alive forever in the split second
Auto headlights more sudden
Than their drivers know.
The drivers burrow backward into dank pools
Where nothing begets

Across the road, tadpoles are dancing
On the quarter thumbnail
Of the moon. They can’t see,
Not yet.

It is everything, that other side of the road with its wet green stalks. Why they’re still wet and green in August, we don’t know—they should be dry and brown at this time of year.

I want to keep going places. How about you—got the fall wanderlust?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2014 11:33 am

    I am feeling the fall closing in even though I will be traveling this month to the other coast. So, I’m sticking close to home until then. Have I ever told you about the scans and millions of frogs I inadvertently ran over one dark summer night with J was a colicky baby? I’m sure I didn’t make much of a dent in the population but it was horrific.

    • September 5, 2014 11:39 am

      Fall closing in–that’s it, that’s my feeling too. I’ve got to get out while it’s still possible, before the snow and ice set in and trap me here.
      You have not told me the frog story before–it does sound horrific.

  2. September 7, 2014 4:41 pm

    I’ve been traveling a lot this summer too — although mostly just back and forth to the Twin Cities or our cabin for family time. I’m hoping to stick closer to home this fall… but September doesn’t look promising in that regard!

    • September 7, 2014 9:32 pm

      Some years, the intensive reading and writing time doesn’t come until snow falls!

  3. September 7, 2014 8:09 pm

    Oh, my gosh, what is a letter of ruin? I hope I never get one and I’m glad you can counter them with evidence. I have lots of evidence. 😉

    • September 7, 2014 9:39 pm

      I think the joke of it was that it was an over-the-top 19th-century kind of way to say “what you thought was true about your monetary fortune or your love life or whatever is NOT TRUE!”
      In my case, the “letter” was a overdue report blaming me for a number of things that I was not responsible for and claiming that I had not done other things that I had, in fact, done.

  4. September 8, 2014 2:29 pm

    All of your summer traveling makes me feel tired! For me fall is the time to get ready for winter and soak up as much sun and warmth as I can because once the cold settles in it will be a long time before anything close to warm returns. So I must start battening down the real and psychological hatches and get ready to hibernate 🙂 It’s a nice poem you shared, thanks!

    • September 8, 2014 2:57 pm

      I love to go places, but when I got back from London and Vancouver I had to sleep for 9-10 hours a night for a week.
      Right now we’re having a break from travel, and Ohio is having some much-needed sunshine, so that’s a nice congruence of events.

  5. September 14, 2014 12:46 pm

    How did I miss this? I love to drive on fall highways, too. I think I may love everything about fall — the sudden burst of energy , the sense that winter is coming — I am looking forward to being trapped inside for a while after a summer of outside. Out here it is so very dry — I am really looking forward to the rain.

    • September 14, 2014 9:52 pm

      You can have all our rain. Here, the skies are cloudy all day.

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