Living with Frogs

We moved to our home in the country 5 years ago, and I was not expecting to see so many frogs, or to become so protective of them. They range from the fingernail-sized peepers that sometimes cling to our screen doors, to the fist-sized brown toads I sometimes find in the garden, but after a rain they’re everywhere, especially in the evening. I see them in the road when driving home, their bodies almost indistinguishable from leaves unless/until they hop, and when walking the dogs in the morning I see many of their squished bodies in the same road. I started trying to avoid them in the car as soon as I realized they were there; a slight shift to the right or left on roads where mine is usually the only car in sight felt like a simple, cost-free courtesy to other living beings (who may even help me out by at least putting a dent in the swarms of mosquitoes that have been tormenting me this summer). It’s trickier when I mow the lawn. I have a zero-turn riding mower, a monster with massive blades that I purchased from the previous owners along with the house and allows me to mow our acres of grass in ~ 90 minutes (2 hours if I’m being really thorough). But when I see a frog (or a snake) and I try to dodge it, I’m left with a patch that I have to loop around to clean up, hoping that the animal involved has moved somewhere genuinely safer and not simply that I’m crushing it beneath the wheels or chopping it with the blades. That swerve costs me time and consumes extra gasoline, imposing a small environmental (and minute financial) cost on my attempt to be merciful. But it feels worth it to me. I’m not a vegetarian, so I can’t pretend that to absolute protection of every living creature, but at least when I eat meat the animal’s death is directly enabling my survival (and enjoyment). It feels more callous when the death is simply incidental, that my desire for a well-mowed lawn couldn’t be interrupted. I think that’s also part of why I’ve been reluctant to use a lawn service; I imagine that most of them would try to do an aesthetically perfect job, since that’s what the customer would look at, and do it in as little time as possible, since that allows them to take on more work and earn more money. But they’re not the ones who would miss the frogs. My daughter’s too young to ask me a lot of hard questions about how I’ve lived my values (or failed to), but at least in this small instance I can tell her that a frog’s life is more important to me than a perfect-looking lawn. This feels like a small act of mercy,

As a side note, I remember learning that some people in Japan will put little frogs in their wallet, because the word for frog, “kaeru” means “to return,” in hopes that their money will return. The Jewish high holidays focus on “T’shuvah,” repentance, which also means “to return.” Too often in the business world we ignore the (metaphorical or literal) frogs who are incidentally harmed by our focus on efficiency and profit. So my resolution for the coming year is to look for the frogs; who do we risk running over in our hurry? Even if it’s unintentional, can we avoid it? Ambitious, big picture goals make it easy to ignore the collateral damage, but a slower, kinder world might have less resentment and division. And in the grander scheme of things, is a little bit of time or money saved really worth the life of a frog?

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