Somewhere in the world there exists a quiet, humble pond. It is not round like many ponds but uneven and crooked, and it turns a little corner, making the whole thing look rather like an elbow. The pond is erratic in its nature. Sometimes the rains do not fall as regularly as usual and the pond dries up, resembling a muddy puddle. Sometimes when it pours with rain for days on end the pond fills high and breaks its banks, and the water pushes out into the surrounding plain and makes something of a vast wetland. When this happens the area turns vibrantly green and explodes with life of all colours and peculiarities. The pond is quite recognisable from other ponds because two great willow trees stand on either side. They arch up and then turn down together and meet and entangle and become one. They fan out across half of the pond, and hang low over the water such that the tips of the branches fall gently into the water as if trying to catch one of the many fish below.
The water is emerald in places where the natural algae has taken hold. It is a beautiful sight to behold – the soft green layer upon the water as if painted on by a maestro, broken only by the weeping limbs of the willows. Lilies sit upon the surface, haphazardly scattered here and there. Along the edge, mounds of grass grow high and bracken lays strewn where it falls. The pond teems with all kinds of life; fish of different sizes swim amongst the weeds, birds flutter above and reptiles slide or crawl along the bank, and Insects fly and jump and hover wherever they feel the urge, unaware of amphibians in hot pursuit. One could dream of tiny elves and leprechauns living amongst the trees, and water sprites dancing on the lilies when the moon is dim.
A little Frog lived in this pond. He was only new at being a Frog and was not sure of his place in the world around him. He remembered how he had lived in the darkest muddy pools of the pond, and he had been unable to do much but wiggle here and there. One day a leg popped out and then another and another, and over a period of time he morphed into a Frog. He couldn’t breathe underwater as he would have liked but the benefits of his new dimensions far outweighed the old. When he had been a Tadpole he had swum around clumsily, avoiding the nasty stares of unseen foes. Now he had lilies and rocks to sit on, and willows to find shade under and pass the time. He liked being a Frog.
He was agile and nimble and he could leap across great distances with the greatest of ease. He could breathe in the sweet air and listen to the songs of strange animals that flew above. He could swim much faster than before and he could see far and wide. He liked his pond for it was beautiful and full of camouflage. He could swim happily wherever he dared; and when he tired of this he could jump from the water and enjoy the riverbank, hopping along it without fear or trepidation. Here he would spring between the plants, appearing in the sun for a dash of heat and then jumping back to the damp swampy hollows, where he would sink happily into the mud, his soft body soaking up the moisture. The Frog had only been a Frog a short while but he was most happy with what he had become. He was pleased in his little world, and he remained blissfully unaware of anything that lay beyond it.
One day the Frog was leaping amongst the tufts of grass that lined the bank when he stumbled upon a Cricket resting upon a long leaf. The Frog did not know it was a Cricket, for he had never seen one before. He looked up cautiously. The Cricket saw the Frog and turned over on his leaf. He did not fear for his life for he knew this Frog was small and harmless.
“Hello there,” the Cricket spoke rather jovially. “Hello” replied the Frog, unsure of what he ought to say. He had never spoken to any of the other pond creatures. As a Tadpole he had been scared of anything that moved and had hidden in the shallows. He had only been a Frog for a short period and he didn’t have much to say. The Frog looked down at his webbed feet, careful to avoid the watchful gaze of the creature that rested languidly on a leaf above him.
“What are you doing?” the Cricket asked.
“Well I don’t really know. I suppose that I am exploring,” answered the Frog.
“Well, what are you exploring for?”
“I wanted to see what is around in this here pond,” the Frog responded quickly. He was not used to questions. The Cricket nodded and looked down expectantly from his leaf. The Frog went on: “I used to be a Tadpole you see and now I am a Frog. For we are born Tadpoles and later turn into Frogs.”
“Yes I know that,” replied the cricket, “for I have met other Frogs.”
They both looked at each other for a moment. The Frog did not like the silence that had crept upon them. “I had better be off then,” he said suddenly. The Cricket smiled knowingly and turned upon his back. The Frog wondered about the other Frogs for a moment, and thought it would be nice to meet another just like him, who knew what it was like to become a Frog
The Frog hopped on, passing by a willow. He sat for a moment in the shade created by the great tree. He croaked loudly and listened for an echo from the pond. Sure enough it came, slightly lower pitched than his. Then it came again from a different place entirely. He was quite amused by the sound he made, for as a Tadpole he had never even had a mouth and no sound passed through his ears. He croaked again and enjoyed the response once more.
The Frog moved on from the willow. He wanted to find some other Frogs who shared a similar story to his own. He bounded further than he’d anticipated and suddenly he found himself in the sun. The sun beat down upon him and he felt the warmth upon his back. He felt it drying out his moist skin and he knew he could not stay much longer where he crouched. A part of him knew his back should always be moist, and that he must stick to the shadows as much as possible. It was a part of him that he did not quite understand, and it came from the depths of his amphibian mind as if a memory passed down from the living thoughts of Frogs that came before. It was genetic memory; an instinct like a Buddhist monk’s memory of past lives.
Just as the Frog hopped to safety under a plant he spotted something moving in the grass. He stopped still. His eyes peered cautiously between the unkempt blades. There was a little creature not too dissimilar from himself sitting in the sun. His body was long and thin and he had legs and arms like the frog. The Frog wondered if it may be another Frog like him. He plucked up some courage and then spoke loudly. The creature turned to look.
“I am a Frog and I was once a Tadpole,” the Frog said with some importance.
“Oh really,” said the creature. “Well I have always been a Lizard and have never been anything before. You are the only creature I have met who has been something else before.”
The Frog was pleased and he beamed excitedly. “You look a little like me. We could be the same.”
“I told you I am a Lizard and I have always been a Lizard and I never was anything before that. I think before I was a Lizard I was nothing.”
“Maybe you forgot,” countered the Frog. He was hopeful that this might be another Frog and he did not wish to disbelieve it for the feeling of meeting another like him was truly comforting.
The Lizard considered the Frog’s proposition as he changed his resting position ever so slightly. He did not speak for a few minutes, and the Frog wondered if he may have died.
“Why don’t you tell me about your life and we can compare it to mine?” the Lizard eventually suggested.
“Well, I swim lots and I can jump, and I like to stay just near the water or in the mud where it’s nice and cool and wet.”
The Lizard shook his head. “I don’t think we are the same.”
“Oh no, that is sad for I’d like a friend,” the Frog said to the Lizard before turning away. He was about to jump off when he realised that the Lizard had been sitting in the sun for the entire time they had been talking.
The Frog was slightly puzzled. “How come you can lay in the sun for so long?” he asked as he turned back to the languid Lizard.
The Lizard sat unmoved again and then spoke slowly. “I am a Lizard and this is what Lizards do. We sit in the sun until we feel warm enough to move. The sun heats us up and fills us with energy and then we can catch insects.”
This curiosity interested the Frog. The Lizard was the same but also different and the Frog was drawn strangely to his unique ways. “I die if I stay in the sun too long. It dries me out for I have to keep my skin moist with water. That is why I sit in the shade,” the Frog said.
“Well I’ll die if I don’t sit in the sun, for then I won’t have the energy to find food,” replied the lizard.
“Wow, we really are different” said the Frog, filled with excitement.
The Lizard lay in the sun and warmed up. The conversation had taken its toll and he needed to recharge. The Frog was feeling a little dry; he said goodbye to the Lizard and jumped in the pond for a swim. He liked it underwater. He always felt sublimely freshened by the cool intoxicating water. There were rocks and weeds everywhere and the Frog could swim in and out of them with careless abandon. It was his own game of ‘hide and seek’ and usually enthralled him for hours on end. Today, however, he felt less pleased whilst he swam around. He felt a little bored by it all. He had a desire to meet more creatures and find out about them. He had never even imagined that some creatures may need the sun to live and others like him would need to avoid it to survive. He was fascinated. As he swam amongst the reeds he remembered his simple life as a Tadpole. He thought back to the eyes that had scared him from the dark depths of the pond – the eyes that he had carefully avoided whilst he lay in the shallows. Now he felt a drive to find these eyes and see what was behind them. It was first time that he had considered that the eyes may belong to a creature like him or perhaps even a more fantastic creature than he’d ever imagined; and for the first time he was interested in the endless possibilities of life.
The Frog swam out in the centre of the pond where the water was brown and murky, and where he had to be careful to avoid mossy rocks appearing in front of him just moments before he collided with them. He darted to the side of each one and sought a glimpse of those memorable eyes. Then he saw it, hiding beneath a rock. He dashed under.
“You there, what are you?” he called out through the water. The scaly beast looked at him and appeared unable or unwilling to respond. It turned and swam away. It was bright orange and had a triangular shaped tail; it was long and thin and appeared to swim with ease. The Frog chased after it, watching, enthralled by the colour and majesty of the beast. The animal headed for the rock and disappeared from view.
The Frog was running out of air and returned to the surface, sucking in a huge gulp as he reached it. He knew that the animal he had seen did not need to breath from the air, but could breathe directly from the water. He knew this, for once when he was a Tadpole he had done the same. He thought maybe it was a giant Tadpole destined to be a giant Frog, but then he remembered how effortlessly it had glided through the water and he remembered his struggles as a tiny Tadpole. It was different and he wanted to know what it was. There was something magnetic about it; its splotchy scaled skin; its large battle-hardened mouth. It had an ancient presence, as if it had swum through the ages since the dawn of time; and he realised that those eyes were the ones that he had avoided in a time now past. He remembered the terror of many such eyes, and knew there must be others in the pond and that he would find out what they were.
The Frog felt alive. He rapidly headed onward. He felt like a little breather after his underwater adventure. He leaped out of the water in one tremendous move and landed softly on a lily pad. A Bird flew down and without fear the Frog yelled out, “What are those big orange things in the water?” The Bird turned its head and squawked “fish.” The Bird circled the lily for a moment and added “and I am off to find some,” flying off in search of bigger quarry.
The Frog sat on his lily proudly. He knew now that it was Fish that had haunted him as a Tadpole, and he knew also that in turn Birds must haunt the Fish. He saw the circle of life of creatures surviving through the death of other creatures and he felt a bond that connected life, aware that without every piece the puzzle could never be complete.
The Frog sat for a while watching the pond. Unknown sounds emanated from the moss-covered rocks. Sounds which he once would have accepted without thought, but now drew his interest. Which fascinating insect or animal made them for all to hear? In a solitary mood, the Frog thought back upon the adventures of the day. As he sat in quiet contemplation, he felt a soft wind beat against him and saw some dazzling colours pass him by. He looked up and watched a beautiful flying insect with great wings, which fluttered like sails on an old Spanish galleon voyaging across the Atlantic. The curious thing hovered above the Frog, flapping softly, creating short bursts of wind that stirred the lily and sent ripples across the pond.
“What are you?” The Frog asked quietly. He was in awe of its stunning wings, which resembled a canvas enveloped by paint, with colours running over the top of each other.
“I am a Butterfly, what are you?”
“I am a Frog,” he replied briskly. The Frog didn’t feel like talking about himself. He wanted to know all about the magical Butterfly. “Why are your wings are so pretty?”
“I don’t know why. They just are I suppose,” answered the Butterfly in a soft high-pitched voice.
“Wow! You are the most amazing creature I have met,” the Frog said, feeling slightly ashamed of his own limits. “I wish I could fly like you,” he added with a touch of sorrow.
“I am sure you can do things that I cannot,” replied the Butterfly.
“Maybe, but I can’t imagine what could be grander than your many colours, and what could be more splendid than floating around so gracefully as you do.”
The Butterfly seemed a little embarrassed by the Frog’s words and spun around in the air.
“I wasn’t always like this you know,” the Butterfly said, after a short pause.
The Frog looked up hopefully. “How do you mean?”
“Well, I was once a Caterpillar and I lay around in the dirt unable to move. I was fat and useless, without any wings or legs or anything. I could see nothing and hear nothing and do nothing, and then one day I fell asleep and woke up like this.”
The Frog was amazed – he felt a kinship to the Butterfly. “I used to be a Tadpole who could not do much either and now I am a Frog. I thought I was the only thing that changed before I met you. There may be lots in this pond that were something and then became something new entirely.”
“What were you?” the Butterfly asked as the sun glinted behind it.
“It doesn’t matter – it’s not important,” said the Frog.
“You heard about me…now I want to know about you.”
“Well my story is not half as interesting as yours.”
The Butterfly flapped its wings gently. The Frog felt most comfortable with the butterfly. It was as if their common heritage had bonded them. They had both changed from one creature to another and that would bind them for eternity; long after they had spawned other Tadpoles and Caterpillars and long after they themselves had died and become part of the earth and allowed other life to grow out of their demise.
The Frog opened his heart and told his story about his days as a Tadpole, and then he explained as best as he could how he had slowly become a Frog.
The Butterfly seemed enthralled. “Tell me more of your life,” it said.
The Frog thought for a moment. There was nothing more to his life. He had been a Tadpole and a Frog and there was nothing else to say. Then he thought about his day in the pond and all the creatures he had come across, and he mused about all he had learned from talking to them and all he had seen from exploring the pond.
The Frog looked up at the Butterfly and grinned, and he told the Butterfly about Lizards and of how they need sun to fill them with energy, helping them carry out their lives. He told the Butterfly of the strange Fish underwater and of how many of them filled the pond, and of how he had seen them long ago as a Tadpole. He told him of the flying Bird and he told him of the Cricket in the grass and he was a little sad for he knew nothing of that Cricket – not what it was nor how it lived its life; and he knew then, as he told the Butterfly all his stories, that he must return to the bank and find that Insect and ask it all about its life.