Our frog came back last night. As we sat down to dinner, we suddenly heard his familiar song, that classic “ribbet . . . ribbet–ribbet–ribbet–ribbet . . .” I threw open the window to bring it in more clearly, in spite of the slight chill that came with it. We didn’t know if we would ever hear a frog again in our pond, after a mad competitive chorus between two inexhaustible males suddenly came to a halt two years ago. But here it was.

We say “our frog,” although we don’t know if this is him, or one of his progeny, or just some random passerby who happened upon our pond as a stroke of sheer frog luck. We got into frogs when our pond buddy Carmen snatched two males and a female out of her own small pond and pressed them (containered) into our hands. She found their singing charming, but overwhelming. She was right, but our pond is bigger and farther away from our house, and we’d rather hear frog song than the sound of redneck hotrodders out on the main road, too close to our property for comfort. That’s why we had the pond built in the first place, so that the splashy sound of a tumbling waterfall would masquerade the screech of fossil fuel. Frog song is a bonus.

We took yesterday’s frog recital as a sign that it was time to plant something in the garden. Normally we would have a winter garden, and by now there would be greens and legumes showing up in our dinners. But we were burned out after last summer’s garden, which followed on from last winter’s garden, and so on and so on back to the beginning. We returned to California only a few years ago, and it suddenly dawned on me last fall that in every other place I had gardened—Ireland, Alaska, Wisconsin, Illinois—there had been a winter-imposed hiatus, a time to rest, to forget about the garden for awhile, until you once again got the hankering to sort through your seed packets and dream about what you would plant this year. But a California garden can cause you to turn yourself into a neoliberal productivity monster, missing the point completely: that when it is gardening (rather than farming), it is an intentional activity, done by choice, with an end result that goes beyond merely feeding yourself.

So we went on strike for a season, relying only on our perennial herb garden and foraged wild greens for something fresh to add to a dinner plate. And anyway, we were still eating through our frozen greens and fruits, jars of peach and cherry plum preserves, not to mention a drawer full of last year’s garlic. I did manage to pull out some of the sprouting cloves and stick them back in the ground for next year’s crop, and I got some onion seedlings started in December. I also halfheartedly scattered some lettuce seed in one of our raised beds, but nothing came up there, confirming in my mind the wisdom of the general strike.

But the frog, the frog. Hearing him was like a switch flipping. We went out the next day to our local garden supply store, intending to pick up just some packets of carrot seeds to plant. But they had carrot seedlings. Seedlings . . . you just stick them in the ground, and presto: instant garden. My husband grabbed a cart. Red and orange carrots went into it, and then arugula seedlings, and then two kinds of lettuce and a six-pack of spinach, and what the hell, some rainbow chard. And seed potatoes, that yellow waxy kind that Irish people hate because they don’t know any better.

And then we put all of those things in the ground, in neat rows, filling empty soil with little plops of green. I crouched alongside the beds in what was essentially child’s pose, genuflecting—before what? The soil, of course. The giver and receiver of all life.

As I am writing this, the frog has begun to belt out his song again, at exactly the same time he did yesterday evening. Today I understand better what he is saying: “. . . living . . . living–living–living–living . . .”