Author: Lawrence Winkler
Page count: 275
Lawrence Winkler is an ancient physician and phenomenologist, traveler, mushroom forager, and amateur naturalist. As a young man, he hitchhiked around the world, for five transformative years.
His middle age is morphing from medicine to manuscript. He has a passion for habitat protection, including the (hopefully) final repairs on a leaky roof. Westwood Lake Chronicles was his first book.
He lives on Vancouver Island with Robyn and Shiva, tending their garden and vineyard, and dreams.
Tell us about your book:
Twenty-five years ago they bought a homestead, in the middle of Vancouver Island, on the water’s edge. There are still reflections off the small lake at the foot of Mount Benson- of gardens and vineyards and woodland encounters.
Westwood Lake Chronicles is a dreamscape diary, a backyard inventory of life and death in paradise, and the desperate pressures that threaten its existence.
Lawrence Winkler has written an anthem to living deliberately with nature, and the virtues of simplicity, self-sufficiency, solitude, and silence. Find refuge.
How long did it take to write the book?
What inspired you to write the book?
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
Whenever I get a spare moment and my writing moccasins are near
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Where can we go to buy your book?
Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Excerpt from book:
Amphibitheatre – 13 April
“If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog,
perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise
but a song of poetry and emotion.”
We have big old teak front doors that jam shut in late October and can be only reopened on one night in early spring. I don’t know why the timing is so precise, but it seems to have something to do with temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and twilight. I also know that, like other resurrections of biblical scale, we await the sliding apart of the heavy gates with no small spiritual intensity. For over five months we have to go through the garage to access our living spaces. Then suddenly, one fated spring evening, the doors open, and frogs begin to sing. The teak responds to a secret Ali Baba amphibious harmonic. Unlike Arabian nights, however, the treasure is outside the cave.
Our Pacific Chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla) live and breed in ephemeral wetlands, racing against the clock to make amphibabies, before the water runs out. Ready for love. They are adaptated in three ways, to hop over the foreplay. First, the boys are dressed to the nines. Chorus frogs have a dark stripe, extending from their nostrils, past their ears, and through their eyes wide shut. Every guest at this masked ball is able to change the colour of their dinner jacket, from light to dark, and back again. Secondly, unlike the other amphibians in their geographical range, Chorus frogs have toepads, for grip. If you happen to be in a hurry, and smaller than your intended paramour, hanging on tight is a procreative advantage. It has a name, amplex, and looks an awful lot like a half nelson. The males get so worked up, they will mate with any amphibian that doesn’t make a noise. They will wrestle roadkill. Time’s fun when you’re having flies. Any salamander, taking a shortcut home, is nervous. The final adaptation that Chorus frogs possess can be deduced from their appellation. They can sing.
Every vernal equinox, the two seasonal ponds in our back yard are home to a Stravinsky extravaganza of boombox ventriloquists. Chorus frogs can throw their voices into the next pond. For creatures so tiny, they sound like riflefire, cracking in a tunnel. In mating season, from the first night our teak doors spring free, their usual c-r-r-ick transforms into a Herculean Krek-ek, laden with urgency and anticipation. But the balance between survival and competing for girl frogs in the dark, has turned them into a choir with an invisible collective conductor. When one of them perceives approaching danger, all of them stop on a dime. When the bravest one decides that the threat has passed, he will cautiously utter a first tentative Krek-ek and, if no tragedy befalls him, other less courageous competitors will ramp up the chorus, until the pond becomes a cacophonic amphibitheatre of bouncing braggadocio. We often try to see how close we can get to a pond, while the Rite of Spring concert is in full bombast. We never arrive. When they stomp on that dime, there is only deafening silence.
And the reason they are all chorusing in the first place? Opinions vary. Some think that it is artifactual, the noisy result of a bunch of selfish boys trying to out-Krek the other guys’ vocalizations. The most prevalent theory involves a collective benefit that comes from calling together. A Nash equilibrium model, like hunting in packs. What could be the benefit? It may be to confuse predators (although I think it has more to do with attracting the ladies). The individual calls of the tropical treefrog, Smilisca sila, intentionally overlap each other, confusing the echolocation abilities of their principal threat, a species of frog-eating bat.
Our own Pacific Chorus frogs are also antiphonal callers. In the spring of 1964, a Berkeley professor, Woodbridge Foster, was the first biologist to parse the structure of their chorus. He found that it was composed of small groups of male duets or trios. A few years later, Frank Awbrey at San Diego State, noted that individual callers adjusted the timing of their calls to avoid overlapping recorded calls that were played to them. He found that the lead frog acted as a pacemaker, a “choir master”, who signalled the beginning and end of each night’s singing, and that the frogs spaced themselves out, so two or three neighbors could call, without interfering with each other’s singing. Another California biologist, Doug Allan of UC Irvine, reported that Chorus frogs use trills at the beginning of a calling session to precisely establish the ‘hostility spacing’ between males.
There are three other call types in the chorus frog vocabulary. A monophasic call is uttered by a female approaching a calling male. Hey, big fella. The release call is the response of a male which has been amplexed by another male. Get off!. Finally, there is the biphasic advertisement call, the ‘Krek-ek,’ or ‘Ribbit.’ I’m here!. All the movies, that come out of Hollywood, use the call of our Pacific Chorus frog as the standard background remote nature mood music, regardless of whatever geography or climate the film is supposed to be set in.
I’d like to think that it is that first brave little guy to Krek-ek and not get eaten, wins the prettiest lady’s round toe pads, and if Darwinian theory is correct, he likely is. Unfortunately, Charles would probably also bet that he will ultimately lose everything to Rana catesbiana, the American Bullfrog, that we humans, in our greed for novel protein (and our management arrogance) have introduced. Compared to Pseudacris regilla, Rana catesbiana is the Mike Tyson of the Wetlands. He can grow to 1.5 pounds. He will eat anything he can fit in his mouth, including the ducklings that are increasingly disappearing from some of our local lakes. Whereas the Pacific Chorus frog will lay 10 to 70 eggs, the American Bullfrog will spawn up to 20,000. The lifespan of this nocturnal ambush territorial carnivore is up to nine years. When the Chorus frog colonists first hear the baritone Jug-o-Rum army on the move, they will feel like Frodo at the gates of Mordor.
But all is not lost. The American Bullfrog needs perpetual, not ephemeral, wetland, so our little friends still have a chance. As well, the same species that introduced this monster to our neighbourhood has no interest in catching and eating the legs off Pacific Chorus frogs.
Local natives once believed that there was a Chorus frog for every person on Earth. If there is hope, it will always be on that one special night every year when the front doors finally open, and we hear the first Krek-ek swell into the Rite of Spring for the little guy. If, in some shimmering evening in the future, the doors don’t throw wide, or no chorus greets us, we’ll know that the property developers and weed-whackers will have won. It’s not easy being green.