There is quiet out by the pond. The stillness is broken only by the underlying rise and fall of bird song. Bullfrogs began their chorus as soon as she arrives. They sound like inept bass players who cannot keep time, plucking an arrhythmic tune that repeats,
They indicate that she does not belong. The smaller frogs make chucking sounds as she walks past and with dramatic flair, they catapult themselves into the air, belly flopping into the dark waters with a plunk. Now and then their snouts part the film of green algae to see who remains. With a disdainful glance, they descend into the dark water to wait.
At the base of the fir trees, a myriad of insects weave their way in and out of the dry leaf litter and needles, inhabitants of a chaotic village. A spider gingerly reaches out its front legs and taps her toe. He finds nothing attractive and returns to hunting beneath the leaves. Small white butterflies do a zig zag dance across the surface of the pond under the watchful eye of birds.
Where is the symmetry here, she thinks, as the butterflies brush her cheek? Why are you all so random and unpredictable? Why don’t you keep time?
“Oh woman,” they respond as they twist and dive, “You can answer your question.”
Then with a striking clarity that makes tears fall, she understands. The chaos, the unpredictability, the randomness keeps creatures safe from those who might swoop down to get them if the pattern can be recognized. That is the reason for the frogs who don’t keep time, for the zigzag dance of the insects. If they can’t predict your movement, you cannot be caught.
“Woman we see you,” they seem to say “and we know why you hide. We understand your busyness. We are aware of all your evasive moves.” They whisper, “At some point, even things that appear to be random generate patterns. Who you have been, emerged from a story of survival just like ours. Woman… you can learn to dance. What makes you so afraid? Are you frightened of being captured and pinned? Having your wings clipped? Being stuffed into a box?”
Yes, just like the inhabitants of this little ecosystem, most of us are afraid of the starkness of being known without being loved.
She stood utterly still by the water’s edge. The frogs grew quiet as a gentle breeze came up. The butterflies lighted on flowers.
It is only the simple truth that has the power to free.
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”
– Simone Weil
Photo of tree with holes by John Braverman, S. J.
All other photos and writing by M.G. Iannucci. The pond is part of “Our Lady of Grace Monastery” in North Guilford, CT.