Since creating a pond in our back garden over 10 years ago, we have been visited annually by some frogs who do their thing, leave their spawn and disappear again, leaving us proud owners of a tadpole-infested pond which has gradually become devoid of fish (probably because they’ve all been eaten…or suffocated under a layer of ice in the Winter as we never remember to float a beach ball to keep an air hole open, as recommended). But I like frogs better, anyway.
However, since the end of last Summer we have had no pond, having filled it in to increase grass space and reduce the likelihood of drowning one of the kids. Accidentally anyway. But we forgot to tell the frogs, who made their annual pilgrimage back to our garden for their weekend of passion. On finding the pond replaced by a mound of gravel (and an assortment of childrens’ digger toys) they used the next best thing- a piece of crumpled up tarpaulin between the back of the hut and the boundary fence, with about 4” of rainwater in.
Who knows how long the embryonic tadpoles floated undiscovered? Only found them when the weather brightened up a bit and we decided we should do something about the sadly neglected back garden and maybe chuck the tarpaulin behind the hut as it isn’t covering any bike anymore since I gave it to a friend 3 months ago.
Such joy in our household to find out that once again the frogs had visited and once again deemed us to be suitable surrogate parents of dozens and dozens of wriggly tadpoles!
It soon became clear however, that the tarpaulin was not going to be a suitable long-term option. Leaves and gunk soon collected in the tiny artificial pond. An interesting blue-tinged oily scum could be seen when the sun came out. And after an unusually warm week, the water started to dry up, making what was left of it more concentrated. Worst of all was the SMELL. Frogs prefer stagnant rather than flowing water, but the therapeutic limit had been breeched. They were in imminent danger of suffocating in their own filth before being able to sprout legs and hop onto something better on the frog property ladder.
I swung into action. I arranged for the school to take some of them. I purchased a tank so we could keep some ourselves. Then I was given an even BETTER tank from an elderly neighbour, so gave the one I’d just bought to another friend who has a little boy who likes frogs. I even bought one of those little nets you get for goldfish. I collected tap water and kept it on the windowsill in direct sunlight for 6 days so I could gradually dilute their filthy living conditions without poisoning them with chlorine (or was it fluoride?)
Unfortunately there was one problem I couldn’t fix. The tadpoles don’t all want to be rescued. The first few net-fulls yield loads of them. Plus a lot of sediment, clumps of undeveloped spawn (genetic flaws?) and a dead snail. Soon, however, the remaining tadpoles begin to elude me.
By this time, my kids have lost interest completely and are off playing on the slide, the tiny amount of water I am operating in has got so murky I can’t decide where next to dip the net, I’m inadvertently inhaling tiny insects with every breath and am rapidly losing sensation from my waist down (the space between hut-to-fence is about a foot and a half and the veins in my lower legs are knackered due to poor genetics and 3 pregnancies).
After 20 minutes of this I’m seriously hacked off, simultaneously thinking ‘Right I’m off- the rest of you are too stupid to live’ and ‘Oh- there’s another one! I’ll just save ONE more…’
And suddenly I realise just how like the tadpoles we are. Evading rescue because we don’t understand what the net’s all about, what will happen to us when we are plucked from our filthy but comfortable environment, and having no IDEA of the lovely gravel-based tank (containing dechlorinated/unfluorided water and stones for resting on) and the box of flaked fish food waiting for us on the ‘other side’.
And equally how un-Godly I am in this theological scenario. I care about the fate of these creatures, yes. But I didn’t MAKE them. From scratch. Or know them by name. I don’t even now how many I’ve saved so far and how many are left in this gunge which used to be water.
I call it a day before developing economy class syndrome in my legs, prompted by the arguing and whinging from 3 kids who are wondering what’s happened to telly/tea/bath time.
We are worth more than many sparrows, many lillies of the field (Mat 6) and by implication many MANY tadpoles. God is sweeping his net backwards and forwards in a relentless effort to rescue us from suffocating in our own mess and sin.
And in actual fact, the tank is pretty cool.