Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Reflections from the Frog Pond


Reflections from the Frog Pond
A prose poem

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
Written sometime in the 1990s
Revisited December 2021