I’ve always struggled to find truly reflective words of thanks, and
these acknowledgments are no exception. The ideational and affective
matter of a book travels long and far; in my case, all the way back to
the toads hopping in my backyard in Illinois at a time when I seemed
only a bit bigger than them. So I begin with heartfelt thanks to the
toads: literally grubby and ponderous yet lightning fast with food
items; squinting as they sloughed off their own molting skin, seem-
ingly neckless but surprisingly flexible; walking, hopping, and swim-
ming; and hunched and still when I came upon them in their cold
hibernations. Toads infused my lifelong experience with their pecu-
liar, but resolute, grace, with a style of creatureliness that I could and
could not occupy. And though they were only sporadically visible, I
could be certain a toad was somewhere near.
Yet toads and frogs may not be long for this world. The latest theory
involves a destructive fungus, apparently created within particularly
benevolent lab conditions where Xenopus frogs were being studied;
the fungus was distributed globally by the popular trade in Xenopus
frogs and spread back into various ecosystems by released Xenopus and
herpetologists themselves in search of undocumented species. I must
admit to the possibility of writing into a world in which toads may
no longer be near. The style of their disappearance reminds me of the
complexities of identity, environment, and transaction, and even of
the retroactive “discovery” between a historical trace of material con-
veyance and a diagnosis of present- day loss. Toads, too, teach me again
that toxicities have retrospective temporalities and affects, as do my
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