Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Adventures with frogs. Chapter two: Mission accomplished...

Yeti Hill. Drawn by Marina Wild
Not only is walking a great form of utterly free medicine , but the act of perambulation can take one to strange and magical places. In my book Galway Bay Folk Tales I write about taking walks up a local hill with my children. We call it the Yeti Hill, as we are pretty sure that one of those mythical creatures lives there (well, some creature keeps leaving cans of cider there). It is a great place for children is the Yeti Hill. There are rocks to dreepy down, gorse to get stuck in, bog ponds to slip in, clouds to scrutinise, and all around a view of Galway Bay, north to Connemara and south to county Clare, with every part of that landscape – every inch of it – packed full with stories from folklore and mythology.
But there are other stories on the Yeti Hill, the living and breathing tales of all the creatures we come across there: mayflies, wasps, wolf spiders, ducks and ducklings, bees and every so often frogs.
The day after I had helped a pregnant frog across the road to the fields, wherein the Yeti Hill lies, me and the lads were out exploring the hill again. My youngest loves to try and climb up and down rocks by himself; ‘don’t come with me!’ being his constant cry. The oldest at six and a half years has the making of a super sleuth. If there is something to be found, he’ll find it. This time he found the frog spawn, three tons and more of it lying in huge glittering gelatinous heaps in the bog pools behind the hill. ‘Can we take it home?’ he cried scooping up a big dripping slipping handful.
Now a curious thing I've learned as a parent is this: that children are like the universe - they throw crazy random things at you. And whilst my gut instinct might be to cry out ‘No! In the name of all the saints and martyrs of Ireland, no!’ what I’ve discovered is that sometimes yes is not only the easiest response to children (and the universe) but also the most fun. So sure, why not take home a heap of black specked jelly? So I emptied one of our water cups and the boys shoved handfuls of spawn in and then off we went with our treasure, with not a clue what to do with it next.
When we got home my wife looked out the old baby bath tub. Things did not go well. The boys had a fight over who should put the spawn in the tub and half of it ended up in the garden. But squabbles, like the storms of Connemara, pass over leaving behind clear and fresh skies. The boys relaxed. The spawn were retrieved and the bath filled up with water.  A bit of netting was taped over to stop birds eating our new guests. There did not seem much more to do. To quote George W Bush, in slightly different circumstances, it was ‘Mission Accomplished’ and time to pop into the kitchen for soup and sandwiches.
Over the weeks the following weeks my youngest worked at his pictures and letters, my oldest at his stories and writing. I tried to keep ahead of my writing deadlines and admin work. Being a parent means having to squeeze the work that pays into very little space; the benefit being that one soon learns the time management technique of grading tasks into very important, fairly important and important. Of great help was discovering sanebox, a low cost email filter system. I managed to finish the online draft of my new novel, wrote articles, did my research and played.
When I play with my children, my brain rests, and being rested becomes open to more ideas. Worries and fears have to be put aside when playing or walking and exploring. The problems remain but the time spent parenting gives me an interval where the problem no longer blocks out everything else. As I play new ideas bubble away on how to approach the difficulties in my life, and when I return to them the difficulties seem less massive and monstrous.
So I played and I worked and I told my stories to my children and my voice slowly strengthened and my worries shrank to manageable proportions. Meanwhile out in the garden, the little black specks in the frogspawn began doing what frogspawn all over Ireland were doing and have been doing for a long, long time. They began to change…
(to be continued)
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