6. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Suchipakari Part III

Saturday, June 10th,  Easy Does It!

The little girl at the left, with her dog Cocoa, was at our “taxi station” out in the middle of the country,where the jitneys picked us up at the end of our walk to go to our next destination.

We were sorted into the 4 taxis, and bounced to a spot near a river which had two waterfall hikes.

Being unnecessarily proud, I started off on the harder path with the majority of walkers, but hadn’t gone up too many steps before I asked Michael Starkey to take me back to the other group.

Michael, co-leader with Chelsea Carson, was a friend of mine from an online course I had taken in 2015 on environmentalism, through Save the Frogs! He is so enthusiastic when he talks about Save the Frogs, that he periodically inserts an adorable little plié as he speaks. If you search for Michael on the web, you can find a photo of him with Jane Goodall!

Michael works full time for Save the Frogs! and recently found his bride when both were hanging around the monkey cages at an environmental project where they worked.

The two now live in Gainesville, Florida. Michael is delightfully accommodating, and always ready to lend a hand to anyone, or a finger, to his own kind of pets.

Chelsea won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Ecuador, and is well suited to the environment, customs and language of South America. She volunteered for Save the Frogs! for a year, and then became a guide. She led, by herself, a STF! Ecotour to Peru, and then teamed up with Michael for this trip. She will be a tiny bit busy, as she is starting her Master’s program this fall. Interview with Chelsea

She certainly was busy with this hike. She must have run back and forth between the two hikes at least 2 times, as we encountered Jennifer separated from the difficult group coming down the trail towards us. Chelsea elected herself to find and reunite them.

The “easy trail” walk, led by Chelsea and Walter, wasn’t altogether that easy, with the elevations, rocks, and mud. We wore high rubber boots on these walks, and more than once, we felt the boot gripped with the “schloop” or “ehchuelup” sound while we tried to lift our heavier than usual feet to march up the path.

Melvin pointed out an interesting part of the landscape as we started out (more about toilets anon).  He also had pointed out that I couldn’t see through my binoculars because I was looking in the wrong end!

Help to appreciate other scenery with my own eyes was unnecessary.

The path along the stream:

Patterns of the railings, not only for the colors, but also for the support they provided.


More fungus.

Both groups got to go to a different swimming hole near a waterfall, and ours was well worth the travel. The cold and splashing water was really refreshing, and lovely patterned leaves at the site intriguing.

When we all got back to the head of the trails, a wonderful lunch of fruit and veggies was served to us in the open shelter before we were off to our next appointment (if you can believe we have appointments in the jungle!)



5. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Suchipakari Part II

Friday, June 9th, Monkey Frogs

After lunch, the local guide Walter took us on “El Gran Cacique” (“The Great Chieftan”) hike. He was equipped for the job he said, because his father was a Shaman, or medicine man.   

The first major stop was at a giant Ceibo tree. The anchoring roots are can grow to 50 feet, and the trees can be as old as a million years.   The tree itself can grow to 230 feet high.


Ceibo seeds are a source of cotton, the fibers of which are used to seal and wrap dart guns, as well as to form stuffing for pillows, mattresses, and other furnishings.  The bark can be used for headache, diabetes, diuresis, and even as an aphrodisiac for love.  Ceibo trees have a love-hate relationship with fig vines, which can strangle and kill even a giant tree, but also protect them against falling in storms.

The walking tree is so called because of the long thin above ground roots that appear to shift with the sun, but actually, the shape changes as new roots grow out of the trunk over time.

Walter showed us several ways of using the palm plant, making a woven cap, crowns, as well as a back scratcher by cutting the leaf fronds from the stalk.




Tree trunks, and white fungus every bit as lovely as an orchid, offered many images and patterns

We saw a bullet ant, which apparently has a sting that hurts as much as being hit by a bullet. and a lovely wasp nest.

That night we went frogging for the very first time. Jaime (guide and professional wildlife photographer) discovered a monkey frog by the pond, which we all got to crowd around and photograph.  Of course, Melvin’s (professional wildlife photographer) images are superior, and with his permission, I am reproducing them here.  


Photo Credit Melvin Grey

It was pouring rain, the trail was slippery mud, and I did my first face plant (out of three). Jaime, Victor, Connor, and few other of the crazies stayed out much longer, but a warm shower and bed time was just what this little lady needed!



4. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Suchipakari Part I

Friday, June 9th, Into the jungle, (1st photo not withstanding)

Jaime, professional wildlife photographer and guide, arrived at Villa DaFiore just in time for the group photo in the previous blog.  He is a good friend of Chelsea’s, and helped her while she was living in Ecuador. Jaime was born in Spain, but stayed once he came to Ecuador to stay.  He says that his English is poor, and he talks English as quickly as he speaks Spanish, so it was hard to follow him sometimes in either language.  It was easy to read his body language, though, as an exuberant, happy person who enjoys telling and playing jokes, and showing and telling about his wilderness discoveries. This is the dragon Jaime is about to slay, (in the kindest and gentlest of ways.) 

Photo Credit, Jaime Culebras

We were less than an hour out of Quito, driving past the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve, when Jaime with his sharp eyes spotted a few black dots on a hill, and asked the bus driver to stop.  Can YOU see them?

The dots, seen through binoculars, were actually bears, as Jaime correctly predicted. The only bear in South America is the Oso de Antes Ojos, or Spectacled Bear, also known as the Andean (short-faced) Bear.  The bears are considered vulnerable, and are radio collared for tracking. Jaime says he has only seen 6 in 6 years. Gradually, we were able to make out three bears in a group in the middle of the hill, who proceeded to run up a trail as we got back onto the bus.

Our drive to Suchipakari took about 4 hours with a stop or too.

When we got close to our destination, we saw that the bridge to the little town was closed to buses (see the low hanging yellow bar across the entrance),

so we transferred into 4 or 5 taxis, bounced up a road for a half hour or so to a “taxi stand”, and then walked on an attractive path to the lodge for 15 minutes.  The staff went back and forth between this drop off point and the lodge. bringing the luggage either on their shoulders or in wheelbarrows.   

A delicious lunch was served to us on the patio.  In Ecuador, most meals begin with a hot soup, and were always yummy in their variety.  Yucca and plantain were abundantly used for every eating purpose. After lunch, we had time to settle in to our lodges before our first group adventure.  

3. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Villa daFiore and Tumbaco Part II

Thursday, June 8th, Getting to know you

All of the schools in the Tumbaco area are centralized, within a few blocks of each other.  The geopolitical consequence of this is that children at a distance, poorer, or in a small barrio without transportation, do not get to go to school.  The massing of buildings and children results in an hour or more of streets jammed with children of all ages pouring out of their classrooms, as well as with the parents or guardians waiting for them.  Groups of students were wearing different kinds of uniforms, but each was a visible symbol of their school and/or grade.

The younger child, Kelly, came out first. She hesitated for a long time before answering the standard name question, so I wondered if she made that up.

The older girl, Rosemary, was the almost last one to come out, but in the meantime, I met Samuel.  He came right up to me and asked me what I had in my hand.  It was my cell phone, so I asked him if he wanted me to take a picture with it. He said yes, and after posing for nanoseconds, he ran off.

At 6 o’clock, The Save the Frogs Ecuador group gathered in the dining room for introductions, and all sounded like really interesting people, whom I appreciated more each day, as you will learn in future postings.  

We left the next morning after breakfast, but before we did, Melvin took the group photo below, and then ran to get into the picture at the far left. 

Photo Credit, Melvin Grey

Patricio, in the middle of the back row is personable, energetic, works day and night, and bent over backwards to make sure we all were accommodated, at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between. The location seems a non sequitur, but the grounds are lovely and the food is good.  Villa daFiore gets five stars in my book!

It is my prayer for Mirabella that people go by and love on her, as I asked Kelly and Rosemary to do. But if they do, Mirabella might be even sadder when they grow up and spend less time on the grounds. It’s a really hard thing to figure out.

From Kerry Kriger:   “In May 2017, Stephanie Steelman won a free SAVE THE FROGS! Ecotour through our once in a lifetime Ecotour Sweepstakes.”  Here is an excerpt from what Stephanie had to say about the trip:
“Michael and Chelsea were organized, had a great deal of biological and logistical knowledge in navigating the country, and are wonderfully smart and funny people to be around. They have a grace and organizational capacity beyond their years (I can’t believe Chelsea is only 25, oh man.) I also liked how they connected the group with local guides who had a great deal of indigenous and biological knowledge specific to each region we traveled to… I’m a true convert.”

Watch for your own opportunities to travel with us!

2. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Villa daFiori Part I

Thursday, June 8th  – A Few Trip Bugs

Arriving late on June 7th, it was around midnight when we got through customs, and I looked in vain for someone in the welcoming crowd with a sign with my name. Apparently our tour guide thought I was supposed to ask her to arrange a pick up, whereas Jana, my contact at Villa daFiore, had led me to believe that she herself was arranging it. Finally, as the people thinned out, I decided to take a regular taxi on my own. It was literally a “dark and stormy night”. After a good half hour, the driver, Patricio, turned off onto narrower and bumpier roads that twisted and went mostly up hills, and keeping in close touch with someone on the radio directing him, finally stopped in front of a gate.

Another Patricio was there, saying “yes, yes, this is the place, I was not expecting you.”

Ironically, another cab immediately pulled up behind us and Patricio welcomed Connor, a young man who had just graduated from high school and was coming on this adventure as well. We all piled with our luggage into another car inside the gate. Patricio, driving, backed down a very steep hill to the entrance of the lodge proper. He explained that the electricity was out in the entire area, and we could not use candles, so after struggling with a broken luggage pull, I fumbled my way into bed.

The sun was brilliant the next day. I opened the balcony doors, to this view.  In the garden was an elfish man, sartorially dressed in field clothes, a tropical photo-vest and camouflage hat, leaning over some flowers with his obviously professional camera.

“Good morning” I called. “Are you with Save the Frogs!?” Of course this man, with a ruddy face and happy smile, was. His name is Melvin.

We became friends with one another and with Connor, a very quiet  young man, at breakfast.

No activities were planned until 6, so I entertained myself walking around the perimeters of the grounds, where I saw the same kind of barriers to entry that I had known in 1953 in Mexico City.

The wall is topped with broken blue glass all around, which struck me as a rather lovely although threatening barrier.

My room is in the upper left hand corner of the courtyard scene below.

A burra with a bleeding wound on her ear was standing in a large corral. Patricio was busy with arriving guests, so he introduced me to Rubio to check her ear. Rubio said that it might have been a bite from a monkey or bird; he was unconcerned. I felt sad for this apparently lonely lady, called Mirabella.

Rubio said he had to go to town to pick up his two daughters, who get out of school every day at noon. Rubio, and his lovely wife, Teresa, live right on the grounds of the hacienda. Teresa tucked me into the old car in the front seat so I could go along for the adventure. The family does not speak English. Because we were early, we rested for a bit in the town square.

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A $200 discount with the code mfass200 to join me next summer! Costa Rica Ecotour July 2018

Personal thanks to all for helping me earn “A huge shout out [from Kerry Kriger] to frog artist and educator Margot Fass, who celebrated her 77th birthday recently and reached her birthday fundraising goal of $1,000. Actually she blew past her goal and is now at $1,142. I’m sure she’d love to see that number rise, and so would I so if you love frogs and want to help
SAVE THE FROGS!, please visit Margot’s page and leave a donation:Donate!

1. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Prologue

Every Tuesday at Two PM, I am posting the week’s exciting new Frog Blog on my website, Frog-Artist.com, and on Facebook

See below for the Prologue of my Ecuador Frogging and Galapagos Trip.

June 7th – 28th Three Weeks of Heaven on Earth

Three face plants later on the Ecuador Mainland, 1 stone jab on my right thumb, 1 right calf scrape and one left big toe flipper burn on the Galapagos Islands, my 3 weeks in Ecuador necessarily came to an end. The minor incidents were well worth suffering for the joy I felt in being with like minded people, and seeing many forms of life, but most particularly, frogs in the jungle and cloud forest of Ecuador proper, and penguins on the annexed islands of Galapagos. It was a bittersweet departure as I was sad to leave the beautiful pristine wilderness, but happy to come back to beloved family and friends.

And, I got to extend the adventure by sorting my pictures, writing about our travels, and finishing the marvelous book by Paul Stewart, Galapagos, the Islands That Changed the World. This has a BBC DVD associated with it in three parts, which by watching makes the story even more dramatic than hearing or reading about it could possibly be.

It all started 30 or 40 years ago, when going to Galapagos became a dream someday to come true. In January of this year, Save the Frogs! (STF), my favorite charitable environmental organization, offered a two week ecotour to Ecuador, with a possible add on to Galapagos. As the months went on, the add on was cancelled by STF, but I wasn’t going to be so close without extending the trip myself.

Our eldest, Matthew, agreed to be my travel companion for the last third of the trip, and we decided to take a sailing yacht (actually a converted fishing boat) called the Cachelote from the afternoon of the 23rd of June to the morning of the 28th.

Although I took extensive notes on the trip, I also thought that for the sake of this blog, it would be a good plan to supplement the information with knowledge gleaned from the Stewart book, and the internet. Links are provided where indicated.

Some of the blogs have mostly photos, taken by me, unless otherwise credited to others, and some of them are mostly words. Each one is about 400 – 600 words long. It is my hope that you will be inspired by your reading to explore more of our natural universe, and dedicate yourself even more than you already do to supporting our environment. Each person’s experience is uniquely their own, and if you wish, you are more than welcome to share in mine.

(Photo credit Kerry Kriger, picture of Michael Starkey, Save the Frogs!)

Subscribers regularly receive SPECIAL DISCOUNT OFFERS, for example a $200 discount on the Costa Rica 2018 Ecotour.

[Read all about it](http://www.savethefrogs.com/costarica2018)

To continue receiving notifications of this blog please send “YES” in an e-mail to mlfassmd@gmail.com.

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Where Is That Pesky Frog, Anyway?

Study_in_Pink_4In some nations with less technology but more civility, everyone in the community is both expected and able to express themselves creatively, whether in song, music, dance, theatre, crafts, sculpture, drawing or painting.

However, in the United States, we regularly hear “there isn’t a creative bone in my body”, or “I would love to be able to [draw, dance, play piano etc.], but I’m afraid to try” or “I love to […] but the minute I try, I freeze”

We all HAVE creative ability, but fear has driven it underground. Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way, “Think of your talent as a young and skittish horse that you are bringing along. This horse is very talented but it is also young, nervous, and inexperienced. It will make mistakes, be frightened by obstacles it hasn’t seen before. It may even bolt, try to throw you off, feign lameness.”

Our very being is creative. If we don’t overcome our angst, we either have gotten, or are, or will get, sick. Literally, we become mentally and physically ill.

To help us all on a healthier path, I am offering a workshop called

Release Your Creative Persona

With Margot Fass

Release Your Creative Persona For any type of artist or wanna be artist – writer, musician, visual artist, dancer – anyone who feels stuck creatively. No experience necessary, just a lot of heart. Class size is limited to 12 students, minimum of 8. First come, first serve.

What: You will leave each weekly class happier and more confident as you overcome your artistic hang-ups, and set aside destructive memories that interfere with your ability to express yourself openly. Although I am an artist and a psychiatrist, this is NOT an art therapy class. Beware: there may be healing involved.

For each class, you are expected to 1) bring some project you are (thinking of) working on 2) participate in a group or individual project of your choosing (including just listening or watching) 3) discuss the readings and the applicability of the concepts in the readings to your artistic process 4) support and encourage one another 5) maintain confidentiality.

When: Monday Evenings 7 to 9:30 pm March 24 to May 26th (except April 14th)

Where: 1115 Main Street East, Hungerford Building, Suite 437-439.

Cost: first class FREE. $40/week or $300 for 9 weeks, money back GUARANTEED

Contact: mlfassmd@yahoo.com or 585 256-1105.

It is my intention to fully live and love before I leave. Is it yours?

See Event Details

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice?

Study_in_Pink_4What does this painting have to do with frogs?

A woman, possibly dead. Mystery. Sherlock Holmes as seen in the several BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch. Study in Pink, (cleverly recreated from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Study in Scarlet), has inspired (I’m in love!) the above painting, which I tentatively am calling Murder in Pink.

Lotus blossoms. Narcotics. In both the new version and Doyle’s original book, the murder victims were presented with two identical looking capsules; one was harmless, and the other would lead to certain demise. In real life, there are plants that are life giving and others that kill. As lovely as they may be, consumed lotus fruits and flowers have a narcotic effect, leading to apathy and potentially death.

A gun. Suicide, or Murder. Pick your poison. We are eating food daily with results comparable to lotus. If you doubt this, please see the New York Times Magazine’s front page article “Is Sugar Toxic?” by Gary Taubs (April 13, 2011). The information is based on Dr. Robert Lustig’s research at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as on his 90 minute lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” in 2009, which you can find on YouTube

In other words, sugar and spice are not necessarily categorized with everything nice.

On Second Saturday this month, our rosy table in suite 458 was spread with pink and red Valentine Candies, Powdered Sugar Donut Holes, Pink frosted brownies, and 3 kinds of cookies: Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, and Molasses Cookies.

VERY hard to resist, and later those who partook felt sick, as well as frustrated with ourselves for even taking a first bite. Like nicotine and other components in cigarettes, the ingredients of these goodies are addictive. We don’t stop at one bite or even one cookie.

If we have any gratitude for life and care at all, let us confine our food offerings to, if not vegan or gluten free, at least healthy choices for all of us.

Let us be mindful, for the sake of the frogs, if for nothing or no one else, of the degree to which we can deny the harm we do to ourselves and others, PLEASE!

Speaking of these animals, can you find the precious threatened frog in this painting? Awake! Look! See!

Here’s to a Happier Valentine’s Day for him or her, as the case may be.

On getting around and being where you would like to be

Study_in_Pink2Yesterday Rochester experienced just some of the storm that hit the northeast. Between 7:45 am, when I went out, until 11 pm, when I returned, our world was transformed. In the morning, the sidewalks and streets were bare, except for treacherously icy stretches and spots. That night, everything was covered with snow; heaps and heaps of it in the parking lots and street side.

Husband Martin wondered why I was going out that morning, but I told him I wasn’t planning on being daunted in my quest to get to the studio, which has been too rare an opportunity since Froggy Family’s First Frolic came out in early September. These newborn books require scads of attention.

My first stop was to meet for a few minutes of planning with the English Language Arts teachers at School 35, where I was invited to work with approximately 60 third graders on the subject of Frogs, their current core curriculum topic. Then on to my nearly everyday morning trip to the Monroe YMCA.

After Yoga, I was settled in the Hungerford Building by 10:30. The usual morning open studio with model that Suzi Zefting Kuhn hosts in her Main Street Artists (MSA) space had been cancelled because of the weather. It was quiet, it was productive, it was grand. There was only one short interruption from a fellow member of MSA, and two brief visits from a Rochester Art Club person foraging for food for herself and her friend.

In the 12 hours remaining, I had the two meals I had brought for myself, an hour nap, and making progress on the painting below. Another 12 hours would be a sure finish.

What you ask, have lotuses and guns and women in pink fantastic settings have to do with frogs? If you have any thoughts on the question, please feel free to contact me. Tune in next time for an exciting answer and continuation of this theme.

Beat Frog, Square Frog and Frog


“Splash” Study Tile

(with giggles and apologies to Alan Watts)

What is the sound of one frog swimming?
If one frog leaped and no one was around to see him would he make a splash?

“Old pond
Frog splashing
Japan, 1686

As a frog strokes her way through puddles and ponds is she seeking satori? Or is she just bein’ green? Three frogs tell us the story: Beat Frog, Square Frog and Frog.

BEAT FROG cannot snap any nicotine-stained fingers, smoke clove cigarettes, wear teeny-tiny frog sunglasses or sport a road-worn a leather jacket. BEAT FROG, does not
put on airs or imitate his frogginess. When he is still, contemplating his own amphibian image in the smooth reflection of a still spring pond in Kyoto, he sees… BEAT FROG.

SQUARE FROG is everywhere, so beware! SQUARE FROG is adept at the art of camouflage and hiding even from himself. A caricature, he swims behind clay, or even plastic masks, asking “who am I?” And worse yet, SQUARE FROG gazes into handful of stars tossed across the black velvet of the night time sky like a handful of divinely pick-pocketed diamonds and asks, “Why me?” SQUARE FROG swims and swims and never gets anywhere. To paraphrase the late Lou Reed, “some [frogs] work so very hard, and still they never get it right.”

FROG cannot be painted, sculpted, recorded, captured with a net or a pair of mud-caked hands or swallowed by a largish Carp. FROG cannot be photographed either, not even in one of those booths on the Jersey Boardwalk. “FROG=FROG,” as in “let x=x!” Frog au naturale… FROG does not look for seek FROG at all. For FROG, her frogginess is 100 per cent an inside job, in all its mere luminous and glorious ordinariness. She did not have to DO anything to get to be FROG either. No studying, seminars or special breathing techniques. A Lotus is a FLOWER, after all.)

“Never heard Jesus
referenced as “the late Jesus”
Hmmm, not once, have you?”
~A Jesus Haiku, Obituary
Judy Konos

Nothing extraordinary here: Frog bein’ frog,

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