Watching Tadpoles

Work finished for the day, I allow myself the luxury of resting a while by the backyard pond to watch tadpoles of the American toad. When I place my hand into the water and swirl it around them, they show no alarm at all, completely intent on their investigation of the pond. Apparently oblivious to enemies, they possess a confidence that nothing can happen to them. They seem so intent on their journeys, so oblivious to danger, reckless in their faith that if they do what they were born to do, everything will be all right.

Their only need seems to be to reconnoiter and to search and to eat their landscape. They never look ambivalent. After a minute rest on a stone or water plant, they set off again in a new direction. They do not seem to need each other. The job of each one is to find a way out of the pond and to follow the course of the day.

In the morning, when the sun strikes the water, one by one they leave their nighttime retreat in the deeper core of the pond and work their way to the shallow west edge. They bask on the rocks, nuzzle the mysterious line where air and water meet. They root in the watercress and wiggle through the dangling hyacinths.

Then as the sun moves west, the little toads start to return east toward the pond’s darker center. By dusk, they have all migrated away from the quickly cooling shallows to the more stable water a foot or two below the surface. They stay there until the midmorning sun brings them back to the shore of small round stones which fascinates them and onto which they will soon climb and discover the grass and life in the open air.


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