Saturday, July 3, 2010

Entrances to Hell in Berkeley: The Golden Toad

     Wisps of fog lingered over the fast stream, the gurgle mixed with a few bird voices through the very damp air. Silently the golden toad jumped from a rock to a patch of grass near the flowing water. Bufo periglenes—it was the last time a human eye saw the golden leap, the bright wonder, above Monteverde in Costa Rica mid-spring of 1989. Some say a fungal amphibian virus the cause, some say the warming earth, but disease is not in doubt.

      Despite the more than twenty years since that quiet landing at creekside in Costa Rica’s high forest, during which the species is spoken of as extinct, equally is it clear that this and no other, though vastly grown in size, basked in the slated shadow of the gate, throat rippling with panting breath. The spirit leaped, even while the heavy scent of death surrounded both creature and the few leaves blowing nearby. Unblinking eyes stared from its face; parted lips issued a wee noise, a rattling, gasping, scraping, and gradually words were clear, first in Spanish, then in English, “I have come, yes, to end all suffering. Mine is gone, washed into a distant landscape, but now no other shall be. Dis-ease has turned to mercy. The lives that bathe in suffering shall join me in gold.”

                                    -- by Lew Ellingham

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