The pond was under shade cloth, but the morning sun struck directly on the water, covered with duckweed and surrounded by ferns. Since last year, the plants have made a veritable jungle around the pond. The soil is rich with earthworms, slugs and beetles; we use no herbicides. Tall tree ferns shade fishbone and maidenhair alike; a chicken and hen fern has become quite spectacular in size. Begonias and native violets added their subtle blooms amid the green foliage and later, in the early evening, nothing will match the sweet, warm perfume of petunias freshly watered. Elephant ears compete with philodendron to be the biggest by the pond; asparagus fern winds its soft tendrils about the butterfly plant.
It was quite an experience to watch the frogs emerge, as the early morning sun cleared the tree tops and lit up the pond. They cared nothing for Ten Sing Tung, who loved to wander among their habitat, curious but only ever looking. They were quite used to him by now and the tinkling bell on his collar let them know where he might be, in their overgrown world.
Eight, ten or even fifteen frogs had already positioned themselves on the veranda rafters in preparation for the day. Deep brown with black spots or bronzed with the green of verdigris of aged copper, they had tucked themselves up, nose to nose in a row. 40 degrees Celsius? Who cares! They sit with their backs less than an inch under the tin roof, waiting for the sun to begin to beat down. How they do not cook every day, we still do not know.
In the shadehouse, amidst the staghorn fern, five or six brilliant green motorcycle frogs had settled themselves in the leaves, pointing outwards so they had the best view of the garden and the world. About six or eight frogs were already in clear view on the philodendron leaves; having coloured themselves soft green, with brown spots, they blended well with their background.
What if you stood very, very still, by the side of the pond? The pond was lush with water grasses. In a few minutes, you would see a pointy nose emerge from the duckweed. Two jewel eyes followed.
Slowly the long, slender toes stretched to their fullness and the lovely, green body followed. Clambering somewhat inelegantly up through the weeds on to a grass stem, the frog takes up its position in the morning sun. Gems of pool water fall from its back, making little droplets of rainbows on the weedy carpet over the water. Its emergence was a statement of confidence.
Noses and toes, clothed with duck weed, began to appear in several directions at once. On to the rocks; up the stem of the water hyacinths; straddling the thick, clumpy groups of water grass stalks with bulbous eyes ever alert for the slightest disturbance.
Swish and ripple. Goldfish scooted amongst the muscular legs that propelled brown and green torpedoes back to the sanctuary of the water and the weeds.
Behind the pond was a jungle of spiky, spider plants, bracken, flowering bulbs, ferns and philodendron. They hung over the edge of the water, reflected in the water where the duckweed had drifted away. Soon, there was a soft rustle and the spider plants became alive with little bodies, as they forced themselves to the top of the striped, green and white fronds. Fishbone ferns waved to and fro, like pendulums, with the sudden weight of their acrobatic passengers. The frogs had swum across the pond underwater and used the shelter of the leaves to leave their swamp in their irresistible search for the sun.
Up the leaves they scrambled, sometimes one over the top of another, seeking the platform of the broad leaves which swayed gently in the morning breeze. Five, six, eight fat bodies and the leaf could support no more. The next flotilla docked itself on the leaf next door; those who were too slow or less practiced took up their positions on the stems. A quiet, contented grrrrk, grrrrk murmured somewhere from the back of the pond, as the warmth of the morning sun fell gently on green and brown stippled backs.
With a book in my lap, Teng Sing Tung winding himself around my ankles and the sun on my back, I was content to idle away my time in my frog world.