It is a gorgeous evening–one of those perfect spring eves when the air is sweet with scent, the sky is clear blue, wisps of cloud portend showers later in the week, and birds fill the air with chirping and cheeping.
I’m strolling the pond, loosening the kinks in my neck and shoulders after shoveling compost all day. The sandy path feels good, cool on my soles. I round the bend and there, under the thorny tendrils of a wild rose bush, lie the bottoms of two bare feet, tiny and black with dirt.
Lifting the cascading branches gingerly–Thank goodness my hands are calloused and tough!–I follow the line of a very short body to the water’s edge.
“Ariadne, what in heaven’s name are you doing lying half in the stream!”
“Shhhh, Rose”, a mud-smudged face turns toward me just long enough to place a finger to its lips and whispers, “I’m watching the tadpoles turn to frogs.”
She turns her face carefully to the water again and measures her breath slowly, not moving, though it hardly matters. When I raised the vines, the tadpoles darted about frantically, but they’ve already settled back to their work, cleaning the pond of algae and growing fatter.
“Look Rose,” seven-year-old Ariadne whispers. “Some of them have almost lost their tails. See? They have legs. Look at that one hopping!”
She points to a tiny tree frog, small as her thumb, leaping from a blade of grass to a leaf floating on the water.
“They’re Hyla regilla, Pacific tree frogs,” Ariadne says proudly. “I looked them up in the library. In the fall they’ll make so much noise, Mama says I’ll wish I never heard of a frog!”
Ariadne scoots out from under the rose bush. “Don’t tell anyone right away about the tadpole hole, will you, Rose? Please? They’re not ready for a lot of kids to come crashing and stomping around. Can you keep the secret? Please, Rose?”
“Yes, Ariadne, I will keep your secret,” I tell her, laughing as I help her straighten her bunched up jacket. “Good grief! How long have you been lying under there? You have twigs in your hair, and clumps of mud.”
“I know. Mama will be fe-yur-ious!” Ariadne’s eyes are bright with joy and discovery. “But mostly she’ll just be glad I’m home before dark.”
She races down the path, legs spinning as only a child’s can, calling back to me as she goes. “Don’t forget, Rose! Secret!”
A warm glow spreads through my chest as I meander round the pond. I stroll more slowly, enjoying the breeze, pausing to watch the Great Blue Heron fishing for his supper. In the dimming light of dusk, I step carefully, watchful for tiny creatures that may be crossing the path.
Something leaps from the water, out of sight, but not out of earshot–that quick, wet sound of a body breaking the surface, snapping a fly, perhaps, in mid-air, and just as quickly, “schlup,” sliding under again.
The sky is yellow and mauve and blue. Honeysuckle and night jasmine mingle with the muskier scents of the pond. In the distance, I hear laughter, and the strains of a guitar tuning. There will be music in the village tonight.