My oldest son nurtures a deep love of frogs.He knows the life cycle forward and back. Spring and early summer are like lullabies for him - frogs sounding like banjos at twilight, chasing mating calls down the block. A few weeks ago he scooped up two tadpoles in a small jar from the drainage ditches still riddled with ribbons of frog eggs in front of the house. He put them in a small demitasse cup, one we normally use for ice cream, asked Alexa what he should feed them, and gathered algae outside.
Over the last two weeks we’ve watched one of the tadpoles transform. First it grew tiny thread like back legs, then from its gills grew front legs. So delicate they were, maybe a millimeter thick. Each morning before school we’ve checked on them — I too became invested, prodding the water throughout the day if it stayed still too long, filling up the cup with fresh water when the cat drank from it. One morning we noticed its head above water, the next its tail had dropped off. It sat on the small river stone we placed in the cup, perfectly still, as if contemplating its first hop. I wondered, what is it like for this once fully aquatic creature to find itself breathing air? To find itself sitting on a stone with legs and no tail? Side note: I would completely freak out if it were me
I do not really know if tadpoles are conscious of their transformation, if they understand the fullness of their miracle. One thing I know is that the little tiny frog, smaller than my pinky nail, did not try again to become a tadpole. For nearly 2 days it sat in one spot. Perhaps it was bewildered, overwhelmed at discovering itself a frog.
With any change, tadpole to frog, bud to flower, helium to star, there’s a kind of quantum leap that happens. Our own movement from asleep to awake, though gradual, requires this leap, however small. You know those moments when you find yourself no longer in suffering? You’re going, “How did that happen? On Tuesday I thought death would be easier and today I belly laughed!” This is a kind of quantum leap. We transform all the time. The natural world is a perfect mirror for what is possible within.
In the morning we had a tadpole who swam. By afternoon it was a frog who jumped. We are capable of the very same!
Noticing these quantum leaps in and around us requires attention and a willingness to fold into small miracles with a sense of awe and gratitude. The best part about having kids and re-experiencing the world through their eyes is awe is never far from the surface. We experienced the wide space between froglessness and frog. To attain stillness and watchfulness, we too had to exist in a state of froglessness, to just be. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote it this way:
The first fruition of the practice
is the attainment of froglessness.
When a frog is put
on the center of a plate,
she will jump out of the plate
after just a few seconds.
If you put the frog back again
on the center of the plate,
she will again jump out.
You have so many plans.
There is something you want to become.
Therefore you always want to make a leap,
a leap forward.
It is difficult
to keep the frog still
on the center of the plate.
You and I
both have Buddha Nature in us.
This is encouraging,
but you and I
both have Frog Nature in us.
That is why the first attainment
of the practice—
froglessness is its name.
In my mind this willingness to hold both froglessness and anticipation is its own kind of miracle. One that necessitates our ability to hold the tension of opposites - stillness with a quantum leap. We are leaping all the time. And as we do, our nondual nature, our ability to hold many states of being at once, grows and matures.