Academic journal article Chicago Review

Rite of Spring

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Rite of Spring

Article excerpt

Translated by Bill Johnston

When the frogs come out from beneath the earth and set off in search of standing water, it's a sign that winter has grown weak. White tongues of snow still lie in dark gullies, but their days are numbered. The streams are bursting with water; its animated, monotonous sound can be heard even through the walls of the house. Of the four elements, only earth has no voice of its own.

But this was supposed to be about the frogs, not the elements. So then, they crawl out of their hiding places and make their way to ditches and puddles, to stagnant, warmer water. Their bodies look like clods of glistening clay. If the day is sunny the meadow comes to Ufe: dozens, hundreds of frogs moving up the slope. Actually it can barely be seen, for the color of their skin matches the dull hue of last year's grass. The eye catches only light and motion. They're still cold and half asleep, so they hop slowly, with long rests between bursts of effort. When the sun is shining at a particular angle, their journey is a series of brief flashes. They light up and go out again like will-o'the-wisps in the middle of the day. But even now they join into pairs. Frogs' blood, as everyone knows, has the same temperature as the rest of the world, so as they push through patches of shadow on a clear but frost-sprinkled early morning, it's quite possible that red ice is flowing in their veins. Yet even now, one is seeking another, and they cling to each other in their strange two-headed, eight-legged way that makes Tosia call out: "Look! One frog's carrying the other one!"

All this is happening in a roadside ditch. The sun warms the water all day long, it's only in the late afternoon that the leafless willows cast an irregular network of shadows. There's no outflow here, it's sheltered from the wind, no stream runs into it, yet the surface of the water is dense with Ufe. It's like the back of a great snake: it shimmers and coruscates, reflecting the Ught; the cold gleam sUthers, melts away, divides, and does not come to a rest even for a moment. …

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