There are any number of ‘critters’ that consider my open-air studio their home—insects, Gecko and Tokay lizards, cats and dogs, and the occasional bird. And why not? It was theirs before it was mine. The most consistently insistent resident is the Duttaphrynus melanostictus, known variously as the Asian common toad, black-spectacled toad, Javanese toad, or the common Sunda toad.
I’ve been running into this same gentle salientian for the last few weeks. He prefers to hide in the cool shadows behind my large unfinished canvases during the day and at night he comes out in the safety of darkness to feed and find romance.
This morning I decided I’d like a closer look, to get to know him better and what better way than to bring him up and into the light of my workspace; it seemed easy enough. I needed only to move a few old paintings to expose his lair.
I politely asked if I could capture his image. I’d only ever seen him as a small bump of darkness on the floor, facing the wall.
He blinked at the sudden brightness, perhaps startled as well by the idea; he said, “Yes, OK. But, please, just don’t call me Tommy or Freddy.”
“Fair enough,” I said.
The toad added, “And whatever you do, do not suggest in any way, either in word or deed, that I look like…well, you know who I mean.”
I certainly did know. The thought had briefly occurred to me, but I quickly dismissed it. In any case, I assured him I wouldn’t. “Besides, you’re much better looking,” I offered.
He had no problem with my picking him up and placing him gently on the table, facing the camera. Dutta seemed at ease, sitting calmly, holding an uncannily long pose, staring intently and proudly into the lens, his only movement a rapid pumping of air, thrumming over the floor of his mouth, filling those tiny bellows above his heart.
He wasn’t afraid of me, only curious; he was clearly comfortable inside his skin.
Duttaphrynus melanostictus (Dutta)
Something extraordinary and luminous exuded from within the universe of his gold-flaked eyes, brimming with truth and beauty. We trusted each other. We did.
After the session, I held him in my palm for a spell and gently rubbed his back. He seemed to appreciate the affection. Then I returned him to the cool, dark corner of his home, behind the old canvases, back to his gyre of dust balls, spider webs, and delicate skeletons of insects. I was grateful to get a closer look, grateful we can share this world.
I turned off the light and left.
…from the studio,
Galen Garwood, self-portrait, 2015
…and over at Marrowstone Press…[/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]