There comes a time in everyone’s life when you get it…you know who you are and what you value. I found myself today. No great achievement, nothing worthy of the evening news…but I found my value…stuck in the mud.
It was getting near dark and I was in need of walking the dog, my dog Jack, the dog who can, at any point in time walk himself. The dog who has much freedom, but truly lives to run beside my son John and I as we trek down a poorly paved road. Our road is far from what I desire to take my child down, but it is all he has ever known. To him, it’s still magical, despite the litter and broken beer bottles that spoil the view. It’s all we have, and we make the best out of it. On this night we scurried about, checking the ditches for water. Great heavy rains earlier in the month had filled the ditches with imaginary rivers. In them, the spring brought on it’s annual onslaught of crayfish, guppies, and my favorite, tadpoles. I cannot tell you why I love tadpoles so much, but I do. I always have. I’ve spent hours watching the transformation of these creatures from water living fish like beings, to the massive bull frogs that can hop six feet on a good day. I am under their spell, and I mark the spring days watching this glorious event unfold.
Tonight as the sun set slowly, the ditches seemed to be sinking with the sun. Almost all of the water was gone now, and in its wake mud. The mud held the precious creatures, many now dead. Creatures not yet ready to live on land, but in need of water. There the remains of dozens fought to live. I watched as tiny limbs flipped, catching my eye to stop me from dwelling on the dead, but look at the one struggling to live. I took a step into the ditch and sunk ankle deep into sticky, smelly gumbo mud. I didn’t care, off with the shoes, this was an emergency. I called to my son John not to follow, but to stay on the dry gravel parking area. I should not have bothered, John is not a fan of mud, and was quite amused as I reached into the mud to see what I could successfully scoop up. Panic hit me as I realized I had nothing to put my treasure in. For a split second I considered removing my tee-shirt and using it…but I knew that was pushing what the world would consider as an actually emergency…and not very lady like either. I searched the trash for a cup with the bottom still in tact and finally found a small one. I breathed a sigh of relief as I managed to scoop into the mud to recover at least one small cup worth of living beings. I watched as tails flipped and I prayed they would make it until I could get them home. Within minutes I realized how quickly I was walking, and slowed my pace so John could keep up.
As I slowed, I ask myself what made these little animals so important to me to save. It occurred to me that it was the fact that I had never been to Africa to work in the dry dusty lands helping others feed themselves, something I have always longed to do. It is because I can longer do the simple act of giving blood, after a heart attack, something so small, but to me, something so worth doing. Then there was the big thought, it’s John. He never made the transformation from autism to normality, now twelve, he got stuck somewhere in the middle. Not so unlike the precious cargo I held in a paper cup, unable to live on land, but unable to live totally in water as well.
We reached the back yard while threads of golden pink sunlight melted into the night sky. I hastily shook out my cup of mud covered tad poles into the gold fish pond and waited. The mud had clouded the water so that I was unsure if they made it or not. Then, I saw the miracle I was waiting for. White bellies flashed against the top of the water and tiny mouths broke the surface and gulped air, then swam back to the bottom. I let go of the breath I was holding. Slowly I reached into the water and picked up one of the almost transformed animals. I held the shiny glinting green gold bodies in my hand. His perfectly formed legs curled beside a body that was almost totally frog shaped. His long tail wrapped around my ring finger, and I put him back into the water with care. He swam to the bottom and was lost among the rocks and dirt that provided him a home. Jack the dog, was busy tearing up the cup, unaware that it had been the object of lifesaving transportation. John, not one to care about tadpoles, had gone inside the house and I could hear bath water running. I sat for a minute to thank God for the tadpoles that will one day be frogs. And I thanked God for a boy with autism, who can, unlike the tadpoles, adjust, and manage to live stuck somewhere between two worlds…and make it with great success.
Image credit: 3quarks / 123RF Stock Photo