Losing the lucky frog
A hard year gets harder, until you find the thing you thought you'd lost.
By Lisa Brunette
I’d been feeling blue, and losing the lucky frog didn’t help.
It happened when I cleaned out the bird bath. The lucky frog sits on a broken paver in the middle of the bird bath, and I’d set it or dropped it somewhere when I scrubbed the green slime from inside the bath, switching out to a fresh stone for the birds to perch on. I looked everywhere: In the ferns around the bird bath, all over my little cleaning spot near the hose. The lucky frog had vanished.
That made me feel bluer. Isn’t it bad luck to lose one’s lucky frog?
I certainly didn’t need anymore bad luck—this year, that had come in spades. My business, the one I’d owned and managed successfully for seven years, was dying. A tech crash knocked out nearly all of our client projects in one fell swoop, and I’d had to lay off all three of my full-time staff. These were young people with great work ethics in a time when young people are not known for their great work ethics. Two of them were from local colleges, and the one with the longest tenure had been my own student, when I’d served as a visiting professor.
Besides all of that, I was very fond of them, and letting them go was hands-down the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my 30-year career.
The one who was my former student had actually just moved off of his father’s health insurance and onto the plan I offered through my company... Just to add to the wretchedness of this whole business.
My husband had also joined me in this wild endeavor of mine. He was my first full-time hire, in fact. After the crash, we went down to barely enough work for just the two of us… and then barely enough work for me. He was applying for jobs but hadn’t yet landed one.
We needed that lucky frog like nobody’s business, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, which was nuts, and totally unfair, I thought.
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But I pushed on with the remainder of my morning garden chores. I dragged that hose as far as it would reach, stretching it to its end, just short of our squash patch in the rear of the oblong, quarter-acre property. To water the squash seeds, which I’d just planted the previous weekend, I had to tip the sprayer up into the air, arcing it over a row of garlic. This created a gentle sprinkle of water… which attracted an unexpected visitor.
A ruby-throated hummingbird.
He hovered at the edge of the sprinkling arc, so I held it still. I say “he,” by the way, because this was most likely a male, as his throat was deep ruby-red, and the females usually have white or pale green throats.
He flitted around the cascade, dipping and diving, splashing his wings in the spray. This went on for a good five minutes. My arm got tired, so I propped it with my other hand, not wanting to break the spell that held us there, the hummingbird and I, caught in this moment that seemed magical.
Then it dawned on me: He was playing. We’d gone far past the point where this was just a drink of water, or a cleaning session. This was for fun.
My business had been built on the idea of play. We designed storylines and wrote the dialogue for app games, for tales that people experience through play. But so much of the past few months had drained all of the magic out of it, as forces far beyond my control in the name of speculation and banking malfeasance had cratered this segment of the entertainment industry, and hundreds of thousands of creative people had been laid off. Small studios like mine, we’d been devastated.
People often think of nature as wild and aggressive, “red in tooth and claw,” but we forget that within it, there are many moments of play, whether that’s the newborn cottontail rabbits frolicking in my garden or this hummingbird, enjoying a rare, gentle spray on a warm, dry morning.
But in time, the hummingbird sped off, the way hummingbirds do, heading to faraway parts known only to them. I yanked my hose back to the faucet rack, spooling it neatly.
There on the ground was my lucky frog.