It’s Time To Talk About Frogs

It’s time to talk about frogs. It’s time to think about, in Christian Wiman’s words, why a “moment of joy,” seeing a bunch of frogs, “can blast you right out of the life to which it makes you all the more lovingly and tenaciously attached. . . .” It’s time to think “how in the midst of great grief some fugitive and inexplicable joy might, like one tiny flower in a land of ash, bloom.” Sometimes it might be that tiny flower. Sometimes it might be those frogs. That’s the way joy works. Such a surprise in a “land of ash.”

Norman Maccaig, a twentieth-century Scottish poet, in his amazing poem “One of the Many Days,” thinks about things like frogs and joy and watching the day “release its miracles.” We encounter the poet out walking, on an ordinary day, among the Ben Dorain hills of Scotland.

I never saw more frogs

than once at the back of Ben Dorain.

Joseph-coated, they ambled and jumped

in the sweet marsh grass

like coloured ideas.

 

The river ran glass in the sun.

I waded in the jocular water

of Loch Lyon. A parcel of hinds

gave the V-sign with their ears, then

ran off and off till they were

cantering crumbs. I watched

a whole long day

release its miracles.

 

But clearest of all I remember

the Joseph-coated frogs

amiably ambling or

jumping into the air—like

coloured ideas

tinily considering

the huge concept of Ben Dorain.

Oh the joys of an ordinary day. This poem appears in Christian Wiman’s brand-new, carefully collected book of poems called Joy: 100 Poems. These poems, and Wiman’s extraordinary essay on joy, have become a kind of antidote for me to so much grief swirling around our world. Just noticing those frogs runs counter to the forces of anger, polarization, danger, splintering, loneliness, hatred, those heavy things that weigh us down so much these days. Never shut down the possibility and power of joy to change our world.

I’m intensely in search for joy these days. My latest book is called Sing Us A Song Of Joy. This is my way of talking about my faith in an extraordinary God who brings such joy to our lives. I believe we all are in search for joy. A dear friend of mine, Dave Erb, sent me an article in which Paul Tillich declares that “joy is the expression of our essential and central fulfillment.” When we lose touch with joy, we grow sorrowful. Joy is central to how we have been created. Too often we live joylessly. Too preoccupied to notice the frogs, I guess. Too busy chasing happiness, which is not the same as joy. Just too busy.

Well, that’s why I’ve been thinking about frogs today. And joy. It’s a big deal to spot those frogs.  The promise of my faith tells me that joy will not abandon us. Even in the midst of sorrow, joy just might leap out. That causes me to keep on watching. That’s a better posture for life: Just keep watching.

Oh, there is so much more to say here, but this will suffice for now. I hope I can, more faithfully, walk into my day watching for those frogs to leap out across my path. Perhaps for “a whole day long,” I can watch the world “release its miracles.” Maybe even from frogs. That will bring me joy. That’s what we are made for after all.