"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tadpole Teachings

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


Patti Lacy said...

Did you know (probably) that the frogs are really suffering from all the pesticides.

It makes me sad, 'cause I've always loved these kinda in-between creatures.

Thanks for showing the life cycle in its glory.


Wanda..... said...

Thoughtful and clever analogy, Deb.

Gail said...

Good point, well made.

Angie Ledbetter said...

If only we could do the same. *ribbit*

Laura said...

Beautiful insight. Indeed, transition and being present with life just as it is in this moment are one and the same. What a gift to find this frogpole in his/her wholeness... I discovered your blog while frog hopping from one friend's bloggy pad to one of her friend's and then from hers to yours this evening. So glad I did.

Wanda said...

When I was a kid, we would sometimes collect frog eggs hoping to watch the metamorphosis from egg to tadpole to frog with all the in-betweens. I learned not to keep the frog eggs on top of the dryer.

Lisa said...

...aaahhhh transition...my own fear is that it really never ends! When have we actually ever arrived and been finished? With a book? With a meal? With a relationship? It all lingers, leaving a mark, creating the necessity of transition in our thought and in our mechanics. I assert that life as a static state is myth.


Carol............. said...

As usual......you have the ability to create the comfort zone of change and acceptance without struggle. What a perfect example.

Lorna said...

Makes me wish I were a tadpole just to dispose of those voices, lol. Love that last paragraph!!!

She Writes said...

I liked your take on this. Wisdom.

Gammary said...

And that's the point. You never know if you are in the middle of a stage or the beginning of a new stage or just about to teeter over the edge and end life as you thought you knew it!

Good stuff Deb. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I'll awake with a tail-ish knob and wish to slip and slide amongst the slime.


Terri Tiffany said...

A spot of gray-green caught my eye first, then a small slash of black.

This is a fav line of yours. Details!! Sorry, but I can't help but look at your writing and dream that I could write like you:)

kario said...

I'm discovering that so many of my lessons are coming from nature these days. It is truly a wonder to behold and I feel so grateful to be able to be in the midst of it all.


Amber said...

You are so wise.



M said...

Transformation is such an amazing thing. I love your insight into satisfaction with where we are at any given time during the process. The realization that no matter where we are in life, we are being transformed in some way gives me pause to think.

I love you

Carrie Link said...

I love this. Hate transitions, but love this!

Katie Gates said...

Once again, such a beautiful post. And I love the message. Don't look back or forward; just keep going.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I absolutely adore this - and it gave me a feeling of peace ...thank you . . *smiling*

Kathryn Grace said...

Yes! "All times are between times and all stages are perfect just as they are."

I'm so glad I saw this today AFTER I saw the TED video of Jill Bolte Taylor, the brain scientist who suffered a stroke and recovered, because her description of the perfection that is We opens me to yours of the frog's perfection in a way I might not have understood.

Thank you so much! Synchronicity. You are my messenger today.

And to Patti Lacy--Yes, the frogs and other amphibians are disappearing at an incredible rate. The chemicals we throw into the waste stream, including antibiotics and others from our bodies, are thought to be contributing to rapid species loss globally. Frogs are also considered a "canary in the coal mine" species--a warning to us that we have very little time before we too are at risk.