QUAIL MUTTERINGS #2. Chorus of the Frogs – January 9, 2011

QUAIL MUTTERINGS #2. Chorus of the Frogs – January 9, 2011


 I lay here in bed at 3:30 AM listening to the beautiful chorus of frogs. My window is cracked open allowing the sounds of the symphony playing down at the creek to drift into my consciousness. Normally I’d probably miss out on this Overture de Croak, but I have a nasty head cold which is keeping me awake. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. It’s probably been close to a year since I’ve had one. Everyone around seems to have had several since I have so I guess it was my turn.

We’re so fortunate to have had such an abundance of rain recently, enough so the creek was running even in December. This was a local record since I’ve been around. We’ve had over sixteen-and-a-half inches of rain this fall, in just a couple of months. In fact, we had over ten inches in two weeks! The run-off has kept Kent and me busy digging trenches to keep the dirt road from washing out. Aah, the pleasures of country living.

The road leading into our place is more than a half mile long. The first part of the street, nearest Mussey Grade, is better maintained. There are a couple folks with hearts of gold who enjoy playing on their tractors. As one progresses further into the canyon there are fewer of us and the bulk of the maintenance falls onto those willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work – by hand, with shovels. By the way, there are only a couple of us. And then, once in the canyon, there’s just us, with more real, unpaid work than we can handle already. We just have to pick and choose the jobs that are screaming the loudest or the ones that are threatening to ruin some project we’ve already sunk our blood, sweat and tears into.

On the occasion when outsiders come in to fix something for us, or simply to visit, one thing usually registers in their minds. And this is that they have somehow stumbled back into perhaps the 1930’s, a time when things took longer to accomplish, with a lot more planning and time investment necessary. Everything seems more difficult here. There are no paved roads and the dirt lane is narrow and canopied by old oak trees making deliveries with large trucks practically impossible. The landscape is steep and unyielding with rocks and boulders literally everywhere. Everything we do here requires a hike – not like walking on Mt. Woodson’s paved road or Iron Mountain’s wide trail. This is more goat terrain.

Our washing machine is out on the side porch and the clothes line accessible only by a hike up the hill. The garden, where we pick our dinner, is up the mountain even farther. We turn our two horses loose during the day so they can forage for themselves while munching down the fire hazard. If they don’t come home by supper time we have to walk back into the canyon to fetch them. The goats and chickens, as well as the horses during the night, are a traipse over to our west side. Keeping enough firewood cut, split and collected is a time consuming and fitness insuring activity.

In other words, ours is not a life of convenience. Nor is it exactly ‘simple’ or ‘slower’. But these days we know that a simple life is usually more difficult and a slower pace probably entails more physical labor. Not always, but it’s funny – the choice of words in our language. It’s not to say that our lifestyle is not rewarding. It most definitely is.

The other night as I went to bed – with my window open a little, of course – I heard a porwil’s three-syllable call. It’s one of the most comforting sounds I know. A barn owl screeched a couple times in the distance. And yes, the chorus of frogs. Have you ever noticed how deafeningly loud and robust they can be and then instantly quiet? It’s almost as if they are all aware of a single music conductor waving his wand to play and then sharply cutting them off. And then luring them on again, one section of the orchestra at a time, building to a crescendo and then falling away again: all night long. What perseverance and passion. The ebb and flow of the symphony parallels our lives. If we slow down and listen, we might, perhaps, become more in tune with our own surroundings, our community, and the world that we live in. We’re each a single instrument – important in our own right. But together, as part of the orchestra, we can do wonderful things.

Until next time, may your life be full and blessed as you take the time to enjoy your walk or sit in the garden. Don’t miss the symphony!


Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire, is available on www.amazon.com. The Tale of Broken Tail, her children’s book, should be coming out this spring and she is currently working on a novel set in her father’s Mississippi homeland. Chi directs The Dance Centre of Ramona. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, will appear on Ramonapatch.com every month or so. Please visit www.thedancecentreoframona.com & www.chivarnado.com.