When winter clothes the ground in white, I yearn for the days of living in the midst of green. Days when the air is crisp and fresh, and the sunlight through the trees makes shadows dance across the surface of the water. I enjoy the brief moments when I can wander off to the vernal pool, checking on the tadpoles, in a delightful and frivolous “waste of time.”
Hundreds of tadpoles rise from its depths to breathe. Their bodies grow top-heavy, with their tiny and useless legs protruding, and cumbersome tails. Sometimes I wonder if they notice the loss of their sleek bodies. Or do they not remember? They bob at the surface with white bellies facing upwards in a strange parody of water ballet. Slowly they rise together, gulp at the surface, and then sink beneath the water. Every time they reappeared to inhale, they were risking their lives.
There I sit on the edge of the pool in the warm sun, watching the dance, mesmerized by the two red dragonflies who cannot decide whether or not they want to perch. I can usually get them to rest on my fingers, but on some days they just have too much fire in them.
Meandering down the path through the woods, I could disappear into the shadows. I return the long way across the field, letting the grass tickle my feet, and avoiding the poison ivy. Emerging from beneath the trees, accosted by harsh sunlight and the heat rising from the parking lot, I cannot help but think of the many ways our hearts become hardened like stone.
Do we dare to risk finding our strength in vulnerability?
I will return in the winter to gaze and mourn until spring. Until then, I prefer the grass, the wind, tadpoles, and life.
“Fear…Robs you of life.”
Photo of “frog on lily pads” by John Braverman, S.J.
Photos of the Vernal Pool at Wadsworth Mansion and Park in Middletown, CT by me. Conservation of these areas is crucial for many endangered species. Read more about vernal pools here.