Sunday, March 15, 2020

Reflections from the frog pond

Reflections from the Frog Pond

As long as I live
I won't forget
when I first saw it
Just a kid of 8 or 10 

I was seldom indoors
No my natural habitat
was the woods and creek beds
that edged our little town

A world extended
by intermittent visits
to the nature section
of the school library

My niche included rabbits
blue jays monarch butterflies
giant tree fungi fossils and minnows
that I stalked and read about

Then, I found the frog pond
just an old muddy pool
on an abandoned farm
where cows had drunk in better times

I was attracted by the growing ends
of cat tails emerging from
drying and shredded leaves
at the interface of ground and cloudy water

It was about one foot
from this muddy edge
that I saw the jelly-like mass
that would frame my entire life

There gently undulating
just beneath the pond's surface
warmed by mid-spring sunlight
was a clutch of frog eggs

I returned to the pond each afternoon
on my walk home from school
alone so as not to expose my precious discovery
to the clods I otherwise considered friends

They would not understand
They would stomp
splash and destroy
laugh and leave

Alone I observed for the first time
that incredible first phase
of every life
embryonic development

I brought the old magnifying glass
that my grandmother
who was nearly blind
used to see the Sunday funny papers

Through that bulging eye
I watched amazed
as randomly assorted eggs
white on one side black on the other 

Rotated to position
all of their black halves
capturing the sun's warmth

Over the next several weeks I watched them divide and grow into spheres
elongate into rippling crescents
and hatch into swimming tadpoles

Each evening I read about
amphibian embryonic development
in the growing pile of overdue library books
that accumulated in my small bedroom

This nascent glimpse of the connection between
things living now and in the future
was the point of departure
for my entire life's passion and journey 

On subsequent visits to the pond
I watched the tadpoles
transform into frogs
resorbing their tails to grow legs

I began to note new relationships
complex interactions
connecting the embryo/tadpole/frog
and its pond environment

Looking back, this first glimpse of
one of today’s most vexing problems
came from my young boy's glance
of frog embryos and their environment

I began to perceive
mammalian embryos
including human embryos
in their environments

I began to perceive the interrelation between
the emerging individuality
of a developing human fetus and
the individuality of a pregnant woman

I began to understand
a dramatic tension between
interdependence and autonomy
of fetus and mother

I began to recognize
the incredible responsibility that
even this glimpse of the human reproduction
had placed on me

It wasn't until I was a teenager
that I heard about contraception
It wasn't until I was in college
that I learned about abortion

I worked most of my life
in the turbulent vortex of
women's health population
and environment

And even these controversial issues
have always felt like sub-plots
to that main mystery of
emerging fetal and maternal life 

Sometimes, when the noise around me
reduces to a level that
I can hear myself think
this is what emerges 

People who have an abiding belief
in the sanctity of life people
who share fundamental beliefs
in the rights of women

People concerned about
population growth and who care about our planet's future
all have a great deal in common

Yes there are dynamic tensions
at the intersections of these issues
important tensions
But there is common ground

I return to that frog pond of my boyhood
often in my mind
especially when the din of conflict
rings loudest in my ears

And there with the sun's low glint
on muddy water
with iris shafts slowly bending
to gentle surface ripples

With the trill of tree frogs
or chirps of leopard frogs
or croaks of bull frogs
I see this common ground

And it occurs to me that each of us
must have such places
deep springs where fundamental values
flow free and clear

And it seems to me that in these times
with harsh diatribe screaming from the poles
we must each find our own frog pond
hidden somewhere in memory

And, visit there often.

Forrest C. Greenslade, PhD
August, 2006
Revisited August, 2018