Saturday, March 2, 2019

Leaded Glass and a Lost Frog

I had kind of a rough day yesterday.

As I was walking Olga before work, I passed a house on our street that's being renovated. The workmen had removed the beautiful old 1920s leaded glass windows and stacked them on a trash heap in the front garden. That's one of them, above, broken atop the pile of lumber and bags of rubble.

As you know, I can't stand waste. Something about the destruction of these windows just filled me with despair. And as the morning wore on, and I sat at my desk at work, that despair widened into a genuine depression about the state of everything -- the oceans and the climate and the wildlife and the insects and Trump and Brexit and the planet.

(I ordered a book for the library the other day called "The Uninhabitable Earth." It's about exactly what it says. And though it's been getting some interesting press, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to bring myself to read it. I'm freaked out enough as it is.)

Just before lunchtime, in my blue funk, I decided that I was going to make everything just a little less terrible. I was going to save those windows.

I hopped on the tube and went home, and I knocked on the door of the house under renovation. It took a while but I eventually got the attention of a workman on the second floor. "Is this rubbish?" I said, pointing to the pile of stuff in the front garden. "Can I have those windows?"

"Take what you want, mate," he said. "It's all going in the skip."

And that's how I wound up with five leaded glass windows. I have no freaking idea what I'm going to do with them. Probably something like...

...leaning them (or, if I get extra-ambitious, hanging them) in front of our own windows.

It took me two uphill trips to get them home, and let me tell you, those things are heavy. They seriously are lead. I didn't take the broken ones -- just the ones that hadn't been damaged.

On the second trip, to make this day and, in truth, this entire week even more surreal, I passed this on the sidewalk:

I don't think I've seen a large frog in the entire time I've lived in London. And then, out of the blue, one is sitting on the urban pavement as I walk home in the middle of the day, on the first day of March? While I'm carrying 75 pounds of leaded glass windows? We have no ponds or creeks nearby, as far as I know, so where it came from and where it was going is anyone's guess. It looked like it had been traveling for a while.

I nudged it off the sidewalk, into another neighbor's front garden, so it wouldn't get stepped on. I wish I could have taken it to a pond on the Heath -- but good grief, it was my lunch hour, and I can only do so much. I have to trust that nature can manage itself. Besides, maybe there's a spouse frog somewhere nearby.

I am not God. I cannot control the world and save all its creatures and heal all its damage.

At least I saved the windows. I felt pretty good about that.


  1. Yup. I bet Dave was pleased with the rescued window units too..."Hey! What you got there buddy? Oh wow Steve! Just what we have always needed. Somebody's old windows. Let's make a new shower screen with them!"

    As for the frog - if you had kissed it it would have probably started singing:-
    Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
    So tonight I'm gonna party like it's nineteen ninety-nine

  2. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the future doom and gloom some days. What we need are books that suggest how we might live with the future, not just tell us how bad it will be. I'm fed up with hearing how bad it all is but no practical ideas of how to deal with it. If people had to live with their own household waste for a month they might be forced to rethink their lifestyle.
    As for the windows I see a sideline income here. Rescuing and restoring old bits and pieces and selling them on.

  3. You could ask Tom about how I feel about waste. I am fit to bursting when we take genuine rubbish to the tip watching people throwing perfectly good items away, something should be done about it.

    One of the cats bought a frog in once and they make a horrible shrill cry if they are frightened. We put it into a saucepan with a lid and took it over the park that has a pond, no idea what happened to it after that.

    I love those windows, you need to make a summer house in your garden and install them in it, wouldn't that look lovely?


  4. As this story started, I was saying to myself (under my breath, so that my husband doesn't think I am going mad), "I hope he rescues those windows." And, behold, you did! Well done! (Although I tremble to think what Dave is saying right now!)

  5. Good for you, it would be a crime to trash those windows.

  6. You are my hero. Those windows were worth saving and that frog needed a herder. Well done.

    I have done my bit to save the planet by not having children. Yesterday at the used book store a woman came in with the most annoying whiny little girl, and once again I thanked by younger self for never foisting one more brat onto the world.

  7. The world is heartbreaking, some days more than others.

    Are you familiar with the short poem, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World", by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski?
    I think it got a lot of press after 9/11.
    Yes, here it is--the New Yorker published it the week after:

    You don't have to read the poem--the title says it all, it is what you rescuing the windows looks like.
    Thank you.

  8. P.S. Someone wisely commented that the real question is, How are we going to live in the future?
    Possibly this article is waaaay more philosophical than wanted, but I liked it for its attempt to start to think about that:
    "Learning How to Live in the Anthropocene: Ecstasy and grief at the end of an era."

  9. Good for you saving those windows! I like the look of it leaning against another window. Here in the States those windows sell very well at antique shops.
    Thank you for saving the frog. His coloring is something I've never seen before.

  10. Frogs don't all necessarily need water to live in. I think that their eggs have to be laid in water and that's where they develop but then they can go on to live on land so you did a good deed with that frog.
    And those builders were stupid. Those leaded glass windows can indeed fetch good prices...because they're beautiful and built well and can last a long, long time. I am SO glad you saved them.
    Sometimes I wish I was one of those Christians who are convinced that their god will not let the planet destroy itself because...well, I guess that's the god's job to do when he deems time.
    I'd like to reply to Vivian's comment but I have no excuse for having four children. Maybe I had her two.

  11. I am so glad you saved those windows AND the frog. The leaning window looks so pretty with the light coming through. I think the Universe may have aligned with you on this day, with you strolling along at just the right moments. It was reported recently that there was a noticeable increase in the percentage of donations to agencies like Goodwill Industries here in the U.S. , so maybe, just maybe, folks are doing a little better with recycling their stuff.

  12. yes, me too, so glad you saved those windows. unbelievable that the owner of the house wanted to be rid of them. as for the state of the world, natural and political, I can't wallow in it anymore. too depressing. I check in to social media but check right back out. humans are so stupid.

  13. I'm surprised you got that much done on a lunch hour. wouldn't it be great if more people took action to cut down waste.

  14. I am so glad you saved those windows. They are gorgeous! You could fetch a pretty penny for them if you have a mind to sell. You know, you would make a good antique shop owner. You have the heart and the eye.

  15. We saw an interview with the author of The Uninhabitable Earth on the PBS Newshour last night. The interviewer said they had put the first chapter up on their website. The author made the point that while not eating meat, not flying in planes and stuff like that being done by individuals is good, it's not going to save us. Only governmental entities can do it by limiting the amount of greenhouse gases on a sweeping scale. The most important thing that individuals can do is vote. If it's not brought under control, by the end of the century temperatures will rise by 4C degrees. I had been thinking it was 4F, 4C is way worse. Anyway, thank you so much for rescuing those windows, they're just beautiful.

  16. I wondered if you'd go back and rescue those windows. You're a good one, Steve.

  17. Good work, Steve. The window is beautiful. It pains me to know that the workmen were just going to "throw them in the skip." If you tire of them you could probably sell them to an antique dealer. And that frog! What a strange color he is. I thought all frogs were green. At first I thought it was a sculpture. Good for you for getting it out of the road. Your St. Francis of Assisi award was well-earned.

  18. I had to do a double-take - I thought that frog was one of those made of tin for the garden! Thinking about the state of things can lead to a feeling of panic. Glad you were able to funnel that into saving those beautiful windows.

  19. Oh my gosh, I just saw an interview with David Wallis-Wells last night on the PBS Newshour. The sounds down right frightening. Especially when he talked about how all of this happening so quickly.
    Those windows are beautiful. Good for you for saving them. They truly are works of art.

  20. Those windows are beautiful. I am so glad you saved them. We rescue all kinds of wild life too. I always think if I can see them, I need to do something about it. Moving that frog onto a grassy lawn is perfect. When I think about our planet and the future, I weep for what's coming.

  21. The windows are beautiful! I am so glad you saved them! They are just too nice to have them end up as landfill, and I think keeping one or two would be not only a nice look in your place, but will remind you that you are one of the ones who do care about our earth! Thank you. I also just wrote, and then deleted, a whole little spew-y thing and decided to not go to the negative. We need to focus on the good, and the love, and that is what will be the solution in the end.

  22. Thank you ! I felt more emotional about the windows than the frog, I just know that he will be alright- the windows,well done, I love you. I saw an interview last night on BBC with the author of the book that you are reluctant to read, the take away is of course that change is more rapid than anyone ever guessed and that the little things we do, not buying plastic, not buying cars, not using coal, recycling everything could be distracting- REALLY it comes down to voting- boycotting on a grand scale. and Science. Out of control at this point, slim chance of turning it around. Now Climate Change migration is most certainly a thing, WATER. Saving windows from the tip is the best thing you could do today.

  23. You're right, the only way to keep from getting depressed about it all really is to focus on what we can do and let the rest go, but it's easier said than done some days.

    Maybe it would be some consolation to remember that there have been other dark days in history prior to this dark day, and we are still here . . . although this crisis is different, there are scientists and (some) world leaders working on it.

    Those windows are simply beautiful. Is there a restorer anywhere in the city? They might have some ideas for use, or be willing to buy some of them from you.

  24. That frog is a messenger. Just saying.

    I started reading the book, it's hard but he does explain a lot and provides answers.
    As climatologist Michael E. Mann said recently:

    "NO. Just NO! It's NOT time to "panic"! It's time to ACT! "Panic" evokes fear-driven, irrational, counter-productive behavior. "Action" evokes rational efforts to avert danger--what's needed! Watch our youth--school strikes, sunrise, the GND. THEY are showing us the path forward."

  25. That frog is a toad. Just saying.

  26. YP: Actually, he was happy about it! Occasionally he agrees that something I salvaged was worth salvaging!

    Alphie: I agree. When I worked in newspapers, we were often told to try to cast articles in a way that would empower readers, rather than simply deliver bad news, and I think that's good advice. (Newspapers don't always follow it!)

    Briony: When you said you put it in a saucepan I thought something TERRIBLE was about to happen! LOL!

    David: Ha! Well, as I told YP above, Dave is actually happy about this decision. He's not happy with everything I rescue, though.

    Peter: I agree! What are people thinking?!

    Vivian: I often tell people the same thing -- my contribution to the planet is my lack of children. I read somewhere that's the single biggest thing we can do to make a difference in our future -- not reproduce. We also need at least a few kids, so obviously not everyone can follow that advice! But it's hard to imagine we'd ever have a shortage.

    Fresca: Oh my gosh -- that poem brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful! I probably read it at the time, because I've subscribed to The New Yorker for decades, but I forgot about it. I haven't gotten to the article yet but I'll take a look.

    Patty: Well, that's the thing -- here in England leaded glass is very common in older houses, so I don't think they're seen as valuable. But to an American they're rare and beautiful!

    Ms Moon: I hope you're right about that frog! He looks aquatic to me, with those flippered back feet, but admittedly I am no expert. I just hope he knows what he's doing. It would be nice to be able to look at the world and just shrug and say "It's all part of God's plan." But like you, I don't quite understand that.

    Joanne: I hope I saved the frog. I actually feel like I didn't do nearly enough for him/her/it!

    Ellen: I don't spend much time on social media either. It's all a little overwhelming!

    Red: It WOULD be great. Unfortunately it looks like we're headed in the opposite direction, where everything is disposable.

    37P: Having carried them up a hill, I just couldn't imagine carrying them a longer distance to some place where I could sell them! But yes, in the states, they'd definitely fetch a pretty penny. Maybe antiques will be my retirement sideline! "Steve's Shop of Found Stuff."

    Allison: I often feel that way about recycling -- it's a nice idea but does it REALLY make a difference, or does it just make us feel better? When I rinse out plastic containers I think of all the water being used to rinse them, and then the energy needed to collect them and turn them into something else (if they can be recycled at all), and it just seems a bit futile. So I see his point -- we need BIGGER change, on a bigger scale. It's hard when no one wants to face the costs, and there are bound to be some.

    Dee: Doing my part! Otherwise I couldn't sleep at night.

    Catalyst: Well, a commenter farther down says he's a toad, although apparently the distinction between frog and toad isn't always that clear. So who knows?

  27. Sue: It's a small thing to save them, though I'm not sure it does the planet much good in the long run.

    Sharon: Yeah, it sounds like a scary book, but I'm sure it's all true. I just have to convince myself to read it.

    Robin: Well, I weep too, but I suppose none of us REALLY knows for sure what's coming. I try to remain hopeful that we will see the error of our ways and at least make some progress, but hard to fathom with our current political climate.

    StillWater: I often feel that way when I'm writing my blog. I really do try to stay more or less positive and not vent politically!

    Linda Sue: I'm glad you feel confident about the frog! After I saved the windows I felt a long period of guilt for not doing more to help him.

    Jenny-O: I'm sure there are architectural salvage firms that might take them. Or I might keep them! And yes, you're right -- there are ways to frame our current condition that look a bit more hopeful. I want to be realistic too, though. We have to bear witness to what's going on.

    Sabine: Yes, sensible action is always better than fear-driven panic. But too few people are acting. Look who we're electing!

    Wanda: IS it? With those webbed back feet? To me he looks aquatic, but as I told Ms. Moon above, I am certainly no expert. Interestingly, Wikipedia (which is always right -- ha!) says there's no scientific distinction between frogs and toads -- that it's more a cultural/folk distinction. I never knew that! Anyway, I HOPE he's a land-based toad. That gives me much greater confidence that he might survive being out and about in someone's garden.