This year I lost many loved ones who passed away, and I miss them terribly, especially my mom. I’ve had to make many difficult adjustments in 2013, so I look to the tadpole, one of the most transformational creatures I’ve ever known, to teach me to evolve with grace.
Every spring when the winter rains diminish, there’s a roadside ditch near my house that begins to dry up. If I lay flat on the road I can see into this ditch and study their lively world. First there are eggs, large gelatinous clumps of 10, 20, sometimes 50 eggs. Soon thereafter tiny tadpoles start to appear. Over the years I have learned that these are the larval stage: tadpoles of the California Pacific Tree frog (aka the chorus frog). I’ve also learned over the years to listen carefully for oncoming cars…ha.
I walk by this ditch frequently and if it becomes apparent that a large population of tadpoles are not going to survive in the evaporating ditch, my partner and I fill several clean water-filled jars with the tadpoles and quickly transport them to a small pond on our property. Tadpole season means spring is here, this lifts my heart immensely.
The Pseudacris regilla tadpole starts out as a tiny fish with a tiny tail, like the size of a rice grain, squiggling and darting around the water’s edge looking for food. They eat algae and bacteria. When the dark brownish-green body starts to get bigger, its tail elongates, creating a strong swimming creature. My favorite part is when the body gets transparent and you can see its developing vertebrae. They get bigger and stronger with each new day until one day if you look really closely, you can start to see an almost imperceptible bud between the bulbous body and the tail. This will be the frog’s legs. Soon there will be two buds, then four, then legs.
In a remarkable transformation over the next few weeks (depending on the weather), the tadpole’s legs will gradually get larger, taking on a more frog-like appearance. When it begins to look like a frog with a tail, it is close to its final stages of development. In the later stages of this metamorphosis their mouths will widen and their digestive tracts will change too. Eventually the most miraculous phase occurs: the tail starts to shrink until it has been entirely absorbed into the body.
Then one day the new little frog, about the size of a nickel, will not be in the water anymore; you’ll see it has hopped onto the land. As for hopping, they don’t land evenly on all fours at first, because they’re just learning. They hop and roll, hop and roll, then one day: hop and land.
In their short lifespan of approximately 5-9 years they have fins, then lungs; they have a tail and then it gets absorbed; sometimes they’re brown and then they’re green; they swim and then they hop. One year they’re a swimming little tadpole and the next year they’re mating; and the cycle repeats itself all over again. Each night in spring the sounds of their chorus (for which they are named) is a true cacophony that you can hear for miles. Overnite guests complain they can’t sleep for the racket. To me their “ribbits” sing of hope and glory and the miracles of evolution.
So in this new year I wish for you and for me, to continue growing too. I hope we embrace the beauties of this planet every day of this new year, and the changes, and the importance of surrendering to, yet enjoying, the natural cycles that are endlessly occurring all over this planet.