It was about time for Yolanda to leave today when she came into the sala, where I was working on my blog. “¿Senora,quieres tomar una pictura?” she enquired. I wasn’t listening closely, so at first I thought she was saying she’d found the picture my friend Betty had painted that I had purchased at a show months ago and put away for safe keeping until I could figure out where to hang it and had never found again. “Pintura de Betty?” I inquired, and she said no, and motioned for me to follow her. “Un foto!” she directed, pointing at my camera that is always at the ready. I realized then that she had originally used my imagined Spanish word for photograph by adding an “a” to picture, whereas in reality, the correct word was “foto.” In fifteen years, we had developed this pidgin Spanish between the two of us comprised of real Spanish vocabulary I had learned in addition to the made up words of Spanish that she had adopted as a means of not humiliating me when I made mistakes. Over the years, they had become real words to both of us and we did all right, although anyone else listening to us might have wondered just what language we were speaking.
She was grinning as she led me through the bedroom and the back door, out to the patio. The always-curious dogs joined our convoy and when she motioned to a drooping leaf in one of the large pots around the corner of the house, Morrie and Diego moved in to investigate. She motioned, but I saw nothing.
“Una rana!” she said, motioning towards a tiny slit of beige between one leaf and an overhanging one. There on the leaf I could make out not a frog, but rather a tiny beige toad, no bigger than one inch across, only it’s eyes and mouth visible in its hiding place between the two leaves. Yolanda quickly took the dogs away to put inside as I clicked photo after photo, most of them so close up that the toad looked huge, whereas in reality it was tiny. I was amazed that Yolanda had seen it but so glad she had.
It was the same variety of toad that had taken up residence in our guest toilet on the second floor a few years before. Since this room was sometimes unused for more than a year at a time, the toad had moved in, storing it’s upcoming insect meals on the porcelain toilet rim under the seat, now and then dipping into its private lake for a little swim. It was so tiny that it could sit on the porcelain under the toilet seat, which we had lifted to clean. When we removed it because company was coming, it remained below in the backyard for the weeks our guest was here, but once she left, it reinstalled itself, somehow hopping up the flight of stairs and getting through the locked gate and screen and sliding glass doors, hopping across the bedroom and into the bathroom and up to the toilet. I have no idea how it found its way here from the garden far below in the first place, let alone a second time, but now here was the descendant of that toad, perhaps, taking a little nap in the plant nursery I’d established tucked around the corner from the normal traffic area of my house.
It silently bore my many clicks, the lens coming closer and closer until they nearly touched. Only when I lifted the overhanging leaf did the toad shift a bit. An hour later, when I went out to measure it, not trusting my poor talents at estimating distances and measurements, the toad was still there, facing in a different direction, but still in the shade of the same leaf.
Please enlarge these photos as much as you can on your viewer. The texture and coloration of this little creature’s skin is so amazing.