There is a place high in the Alps where the frogs live more than twice as long as those at sea level. I suppose it’s because of all the time spent under ice. That is why my mom moved us up here; preservation. Our whole conversation on the subject consisted of her lowering her super-model brow towards the floor and focusing her eyes up at me with a stern look, “You’ll thank me one day.” That was the last time any actual words passed between us. Now, simply the look suffices.
I read that the frogs in the Alps often prepare for the short mating season in a month-long embrace, so as not to miss the opportunity to reproduce when the ice melts.
I have yet to find a word to properly describe this very long embrace. Although I spend most of my time doing research, flipping through my dictionaries, searching for the right words. My hope is to make up for the lack of language by piecing one together, choosing the perfect, most specific words from other languages to describe what I need.
Now I walk to town for supplies. It’s quiet. The cold air is frozen in place and I crunch through it like hard snow. My arms are folded over each other with my hands tucked into my armpits, hugging myself; basically my permanent position during the colder months. But inside my wool coat it is warm. I almost expect small animals to climb up inside and make their homes.
I have yet to see an animal or a human out today. It is that strange time of year where the sunset begins only moments after rising, and so for the short day everything is blue.
I arrive at the store and it appears to be closed. I suppose I will come back again tomorrow.
“Toska” is a word in Russian for longing, deep sadness, a certain kind of nostalgia one could only know after a long history of preserving in the freezer.
My hands tucked tightly in my armpits; I turn and start towards home in a very long embrace.
Phoebe Moriarty Lev is an artist born in Denver, Colorado. She also works in bilingual and environmental education and currently lives in Chilean Patagonia.