Comparative Spaces, Sounds: Frogs, at Fes and at Seven Islands


The road here passes alongside the big green liminal space that lies between Fes al-Bali- the oldest part of the Old Medina- and Fes al-Jedid, the rather newer (fourteenth century) construction that once housed the Sultan and Fes’ Jewish community. Today the King still has a residence but all that remains of the Jewish community are a couple synagogues and the white-washed cemetery.

The region between the two halves of the city is mostly covered in green space, with the old water channels- the restructured pieces of the streams that made Fes a desirable city in the beginning. Now they are home to at least a few frogs, who start to show up as spring evenings warm and lean towards summer. I passed through one evening as the crowds along the avenue were thinning out and the frogs starting up, down in the warm, mucky green water of the canals, fresh and vigorous against the late medieval bulwarks behind. I thought- here, at the edge of the desert (the dust was already starting to intrude, coming in through the open window of my bedroom, and the shopkeepers beginning their war upon dust in the streets), under the weight of the centuries of the city, are frogs, singing, as they have no doubt been singing under these walls for centuries, as the mulberries come into leaf. Kids run by, one chasing a ball (maybe they are the same kids I would see climbing the mulberries gathering fruit and leaves?); a single car mumbles by, the crowd moves along, laughing, calling, the snatches of Maghrebi Arabic ring in my ears. Frogs, children, the vigorous clip-clip of Maghrebi, spring over all- life, wonder, the ancient, the eternal, what I know, and what I can only listen to, and feel.

Frogs, near Fes al-Jedid. Spring, 2008.




A few weeks ago the weather briefly- it’s now turned back cold- warmed, the sun came out, and the weeks of bitter cold passed into memory. It was warm enough that, for a few days at least, the frogs came out along the banks of the French Broad River at the Seven Islands Refuge, a Knox County park east of town. I was coming down the big limestone ridge towards the river when I heard the frogs singing, filling up the still wintry looking woods and fields. I scrambled down to the edge of the little flood-water pond, its quiet waters having swallowed up part of the trail and the clumps of weeds and brush. This also is a sort of liminal space, stuck between the wooded ridge behind and the river banks beyond, the pond precarious and temporary, the frogs unexpected- frogs in February? Where did they come from- I suppose frogs hide in the mud during the cold- what woke them?

The frogs seemed to be spread out in a line up and down the little pond, rising and falling in their song. I squatted beside the water and listened, closed my eyes, breathed the spring, the return to life, the womb of water and the song, all things bright and beautiful and alive.

Frogs, Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge. February 2009.


3 thoughts on “Comparative Spaces, Sounds: Frogs, at Fes and at Seven Islands

  1. Pingback: Comparative Spaces, Sounds: Frogs, Fes and Knox County « Thicket … |

  2. Seraphim

    Stick to your guns. I’ve been where you are. The other side of the desk is a daunting place to stand. There is so much subtle power, so much unwanted power in a red pen. it takes discernment to use that power wisely. An honest but less than outstanding grade might be the first real world wake up call some pampered preppy type will ever face. And the same less than desired grade may be the last straw for an earnest but poorly equipped student. Those are hard human realities to face. And it is natural not to want to be the bearer of bad tidings. But if you have graded honestly on their mastery of the subject you have in fact shown them great mercy.

    We live in a dishonest world of hidden agendas, inflated expectations,and a 1000 other distortions of the truth engineered either to stroke or to crush our egos at another’s whim. An honest evaluation is a treasure even if it is a painful one. It gives us a realistic place to put our feet.

    The trick for the honest teacher is knowing when to temper a hard evaluation with mercy. It can involve offering/setting up tutoring assistance if a difficulty is spotted, having some supplimentals assignments available, going to bat for the irritating naif, being a little flexible with a deadline if the student has a lot that is important riding on that grade. There are of course limits and and GA does not have the leeway that a professor has.

    What is important is not to diminish the requirements of subject mastery, but to assist the willing student to reach mastery.

    Don’t worry that you feel the pain of the choices you must make, the earned grades that you must give. If you did not feel that compassion, did not question yourself with regard to what is best for this or that student, then you should not be on the other side of the desk.

    Speaking out of my own experience I had both hard and inflexible professors and very generous ones who went out of their way to be merciful to me without lowering the bar of subject mastery. Both did me good turns.

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