Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Something didn't seem quite right, but it took a minute to figure out what. I was standing at the edge of the river while Toby splashed in its center. The afternoon was perfect - late season sunlight slanted so the maple greens glowed bright, clouds delivered of a laughing wind danced across a clean blue sky, and a certainty that for this year the day might be the last of its kind.
I was scanning the river rocks at my feet, always in search of heart shapes, or maybe another heron feather like the one I'd found the day before. A spot of gray-green caught my eye first, then a small slash of black. My mind registered "frog" then just as quickly dismissed it because frogs don't have tails. Then I realized I was seeing a frog still transforming from tadpole, the black tail that served as legs in the water not yet absorbed.
As I stood watching him in wonder, I realized that this was the very first time I'd ever seen a frog in a between state - well beyond true tadpole, but not yet complete adult. And it made me ponder transitions and transformation and thinking.
When a frog is in tadpole form, it's considered whole just as it is. It's a tadpole. It swims and eats and grows. It does what it can to stay safe. With the tiniest of amphibian brains, I doubt it bemoans the fact that it's still stuck underwater with no legs and a small mouth. I don't see it counting the days until it can live on land, or comparing the size of its emerging limbs with that of other tadpoles.
When a tadpole has metamorphosed into frog, little trace of its fishy self remains in the four-legged, deep-croaking, land-hopping creature. Then frog is just frog, and his job is to eat and stay safe long enough to reproduce. Perfect in that stage of his life, without concern for what was (like being able to live completely underwater) or what might be coming down the road (like a hungry heron).
But what about the between time? If this frog's brain were big enough, would he be embarrassed by the tail that told everyone he wasn't yet a full-fledged adult? Would he yearn for the relative safety and known world of underwater? Would he long impatiently for the day when he reached his full green, nobby and wide-mouthed potential?
You see where I'm going with this, right? All times are between times and all stages are perfect just as they are. The tadpole is in a constant state of transformation as it grows into froghood. The frog ultimately transitions from life to death to life again. And both are spared the inner voices that insist somewhere else is better, anywhere else, than where they currently are. Tail or no.
Illustration from Wikimedia Commons