July 22, 2006


Last week, I was paddling alone, and landed on a remote beach that probably hadn't seen a human foot in weeks. My trip companions were hours behind me. The beach was covered in wolf tracks, and the tracks were really, really fresh. My thought was, neat! I hope a wolf comes to the beach while I'm here! (They are very very elusive. But I hoped anyway.)

As a child and teenager, I wandered around our home in northern Ontario, alone, knowing that there are bears and other wild things, and it didn't occur to me to be afraid. I once saw a sow and her cub on the bluff, and I was alone, and I knew that I should never ever get between the sow and her cub - but I wasn't, so I just stayed in my blueberry patch and watched. I had to learn to worry about bears after I moved to southern Ontario.

The first time I saw a rattlesnake, I was enchanted. One of the highlights in my mental photo album is seeing a mating ball of garter snakes. When I was 11, I routinely picked them up (hold them just behind the head). I was fascinated by what their skin felt like.

There are various creepy crawlies and the like that I'm not particularly fond of, but if they're on my tent or in my way, I will calmly move them out of my way. The list includes slugs and spiders and even salamanders.

I am far from fearless. But I spend a lot of time outdoors, and I'm comfortable there. Except for one thing.

Last summer, we were sitting around a bare Georgian Bay rock campsite. A toad hopped into our circle. Everybody was delighted, except for me. I didn't want to call attention to myself, but I had to get as far away as possible, right now. I moved right away. Ron noticed, and he made a collegial, teasing comment about it. And then he saw my eyes.

Once upon a time, I was sharing a tent with a friend. I went to get something out of the vestibule. I had my headlamp on. I zipped open my side of the tent, turned on my headlamp, and saw a frog. I was on the other side of the tent in one leap, my heart was beating like mad, I was short of breath. My friend clued in that something was very very wrong, and zipped my door shut and calmly asked why I was so terrified.

There was a dead, dried up frog on the concrete pad outside the barn last year. I jumped about three feet when I saw it, and walked as far around that spot as I possibly could, I couldn't go near it. I was grateful when a friend removed the frog carcass.

One night, summer before last, I went to shut the barn door. There was something blocking it when I pushed. I turned on the light, and saw the toad I'd just killed. I screamed. I sat in my apartment, same shortness of breath, same heartbeat. It took me ten minutes of total utter agony to work up the courage to go get a shovel and take the dead frog and throw it away. I remembered the spot where I threw it - I'd wanted to go to the manure pile, but I couldn't make it, I was freaking out too much. It left the shovel as soon as I hit the vicinity of the sand ring. I ran away, and I didn't go near that spot for the whole summer. I am still afraid of going into the barn in the summer without the lights on.

Even pictures of frogs bother me. I had a friend, a sweet and wonderful woman, who had a stylized frog pendant hanging around her neck most of the time. I had a hard time looking at her when the pendant was exposed.

I could recount dozens of anecdotes like that. I don't like to. It's totally embarrassing: I'm irrationally, unbelievably afraid of frogs.

Yeah. And I spend every moment I can outside. I have a garden. And I freak out when it comes to frogs and toads. People laugh when I tell them. I have, to date, avoided telling - because human nature is such that there will always be someone who thinks this is funny, and I would have a frog in my sleeping bag. This would be a nightmare. I can say with absolute confidence that this would ruin the trip for me, and whatever relationship I had with the person doing this.

Today, I'm listening to CBC Radio weekend programming, something I never do in the summer because it's not exactly a frequent occurrence that I'm home on the weekends. And the topic of the show I'm listening to is fear. And fear of frogs - or ranidaphobia - is actually a lot more common than I would have thought. Who knew. Giving it a *name* actually makes it less embarrassing in my head. But still...

Posted by Johanna at July 22, 2006 04:15 PM

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