Sunday, 16 April 2006

A puddle of amphibious memory

Yesterday's four-hour walk has left me with the dominant image of the swimming frog. The movement in the canal's muddy brown water made me stop - it was like the surface was being massaged from underneath. I thought it might be a couple of small fish lazily gulping at air, their slimy bodies kneading the muck. When the movement stopped I saw it, a black shadow hanging in the water, a floating crucified X. Just its eyes barely broke the surface. It moved again, paddling limply; it seemed so tired. I wondered if it was drowning. Paddle, paddle, rest. Paddle, rest. Then it moved suddenly and disappeared, and I told myself it dove, seeking out a freshly hatched fly or some tasty midge larvae. We kept walking and we saw the baby rabbit, so fat and perfect and fearless. We saw the sheep - the ewe with matching black and white triplets, all vying for the same milk. Even the long walk through the gothic canal tunnel (a stone tube of damp, condensation drip dripping, echoes of wet, beautiful gloom) does not churn for remembrance like this lonely frog, swimming in muddy water, two metres from reedy shore. Could have been a mile.

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