Let me set the stage for this wonder, this grace, that God-plopped right into my life three brief nights ago: Carter is sitting—grinning—beside the tub-pond on our small wooden deck. The sun has slanted low at the eve of the day, pouring beams of that honey colored light you only see on some special late afternoons. The little waterfall at the upper part of the tub is burbling gently. I’ve just stepped out of the bathtub, my hair still dripping, to come and see the miracle Carter told me about not five minutes ago as I relaxed in a late-day bath.
“Susie, you have a visitor at the pond.” He paused to add a bit of dramatic tension. “A frog.”
I hurried out of the tub, dried as fast as I could move the towel over my body, threw on a nightgown and skipped outside. And there he was. Oscar. Sitting up so tall and stately, shining in that honey-colored sunlight. His eyes were big and gold, beaming out from his fine, sable face mask. My breath caught in my throat at the sight of him. My eyes drank him in, but my brain kept catching my breath in little gulps: I could scarcely believe it. He had been gone for so long—weeks, many weeks, and all of those weeks with not a drop of rain to wet his glossy skin. As was his habit, he let me come close and get a good, long look at him. “You called me, and I came,” he said…
Let me back up a few days now, and tell you “the rest of the story.”
I’ve stepped up my meditation practice recently. I’ve been a lousy meditator for many years, yet I have a deep trust in meditation, and an equally deep hope that it can heal many of my inner torments and ills. So I figured if I had that much faith in it, I’d best put more concentrated, genuine effort into it.
I like the teachings of Pema Chodron, and when I realized she had a book out on how to meditate, I ordered it immediately. “How to Meditate” arrived at my door a couple of days later, and I started reading each evening and each morning. Every word she writes resonates deeply with me, but for the sake of this story, I’ll focus on this: “The second quality we generate in meditation is clear seeing, which is similar to steadfastness. Sometimes this is called clear awareness…In meditation, you are moving closer and closer to yourself, and you begin to understand yourself so much more deeply. Meditation helps us to clearly see ourselves and the habitual patterns that limit our life.”
Following her instructions, I decided to meditate for a slightly longer period each morning. I worked on keeping better posture. I began sitting with my eyes open, rather than closed. When thoughts would arise, which was about every two seconds, I would say softly to myself, “thinking.”
As I sat in my “new and improved” meditation practice for that first week, a soft, subtle, quiet little voice began speaking two words to me each time I said “thinking” to get me back on track. Ever so gently, almost as a whisper, I heard these two words repeated again and again: Run Away. I realized quickly that when my thoughts would race in to carry me off and away into some mental cyclone, I was, in effect, running away from myself—from myself just sitting and breathing and being. From myself, as myself, in the present moments of a new morning.
And it did not take long for me to extend that theme of running away from my meditating self to encompass the lifestyle I’ve lived for most of my adult years—the runaway gypsy, always moving on to something new. And always leaving something—places, people, memories, a way of life—behind. Run away. A breath. Run away. Another breath. Run away.
The last time I posted to this blog, I wrote about the importance of showing up for each day, with your heart in your hand. I wrote about how important it is to keep your heart there with you, in the moment. I said we could all face almost anything so long as we showed up with our heart in tow. And I wrote that when Oscar the frog left—ran away, so to speak—he took the heart of the pond with him and left me feeling empty and sad.
I never stopped missing him. I should be ashamed for grieving the loss of a frog so deeply, but I’m not. Every day, I would look into the corners and crannies of the pond, searching. The days since his sudden departure have been filled with challenges, and I’ve not always been at my best navigating them. I’ve struggled finding patience and openheartedness for all of those in this house who need these things from me.
Not many nights ago, I stood beside the pond just before bedtime when the dark—or at least as much dark as you can have when you live under streetlights—has settled over the neighborhood. I looked into all the pond’s corners and crannies and whispered out loud to the night: “Oscar, I miss you. I think about you each day, each time I stand here near the pond. I wonder if somehow you have survived out there in that world. I wonder if maybe you are okay. I just wanted to let you know that someone remembers you, and misses you, my buddy.”
That was what I said to the night, and it was the very next day that Oscar appeared out of the mists. I called to him, and he heard. How impossible is that? Let me take this journey just one small step further: Oscar had grown since I’d last seen him. His markings had not changed but they had darkened. Since I’d first carried Oscar home from the bog last spring, he had at least doubled in size. After Oscar had again left for the evening, I went in and googled Columbia Spotted Frog to read a bit more about them, as I had always believed that was the type of frog he was. But this time, the photos were not quite right. Something about that dark eye-mask of his… I looked up other native frogs, and there was a photo of a frog who could have been Oscar’s brother—a Wood Frog.
When I read about the lives of Wood Frogs, pieces concerning Oscar’s roaming nature suddenly fell into place. While Columbia Spotted Frogs are the most aquatic of frogs, rarely leaving the water, Wood Frogs are the wandering Gypsies, traveling about for great distances, mostly keeping to land. They even hibernate on land. Oscar had never abandoned the pond. He had not run away. He was just committing to his true nature by taking up his wanderlust.
I had not had that “clear seeing” Chodron writes about. I had mistaken Oscar’s true nature, and spun my fantasy around it. Had Oscar really been a Spotted Frog, his departure would most likely meant his death. As a Wood Frog, well…he was just s’ploring the ‘hood. Of course, I have to ask myself, how much of my own nature am I missing completely? How much of my brooding nature has to do with the mistaken stories I spin?
And so I am filled right this very moment to the brim with gratitude. Since I first saw him a few days ago, Oscar has returned again. Most certainly, he returns—and has always been returning—often. I just missed his visits. I am so grateful to Carter, who saw him first and alerted me. I am grateful for the uplift in my heart’s fullness since my little four-legged buddy returned. I am grateful and stunned that frogs can hear your requests sometimes—and even grant them if you are particularly lucky. And I am most grateful for these lessons in clear seeing and in running away, and in the value of returning—again and again—heart in hand.