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.
Ms. McElroy, you are a special human being. I’m so glad you are in the world. You help make the hurtful crap my family is going through more bearable. The love and joy you share brings much needed balance to the world. So glad your Oscar is back. Maybe your boy’s just growing up and the wanderlust hit him like puberty? LOL, so glad you shared his return. love, Nancy
Wow, Susan! Just wow. And deep. Especially the part about the stories we tell, believe, and wrap out hearts around. I love your frog. I love the lessons and good medicine he carries for you, and for us who got to read this! Thank you, my friend!
Dang typos! That would be “wrap *our* hearts around”. 🙂
thank you for the beautiful photo of Oscar.
Well doesn’t surprise me that Oscar came around because I have my tree and pond frogs friends stories from my childhood attempts to bring frogs ‘n pollywogs home to our “altar to the forests” in our southern california backyard which was a very cool and shady place with
waterfall and pond and ferns and small redwood burl baby trees under taller dracena palms and pampas grass for shade thrived the mosses and baby tears grew in beautiful ground cover bright green shade loving … That was my first frog friend Allawishes Rosenbloom Poopenheimer… Yeah met him everyday almost somewhere we’d meet up with him jumpin’ and ploppin’ ’round our yard in the damp spots thrilling me to the core… bright green and yellow….I really missed him when I could not find him anymore! Then there was my mom’s waterfall pond at her bungalow home and gardens outside Lebanon, Oregon…sweet memories of singing and playing guitar on her patio/bird sanctuary/gardens/orchard/grape arbor/ greenhouse on 5 acres on Hamilton Creek about 7 miles outside of town. There small birds landed on my shoulders a few times and two little green tree frogs that I talk to when I was cleaning up the patio sweeping and spray hose washing and maintenance of waterfall/pond tinkering tidying, they would be near with no fear and yes they can hear and our rappor SOOO dear! I always prayed to be guided not to step on them in thee dark because they were so tame and gentle trusting friendly. I wanted them and me to beware when other activities there that were less in-tune with them? They came and went about wherever they pleased. On numerous occasions they came up into the patio and got as close to me as they could while I was singing and playing guitar… Just perched on one of the support posts there close as could be, just doing their push-ups in rhythm to the beat in the music!!! I swear I had to see this several ways before it sunk in what was before my eyes! No doubt the frogs were jamming for hours and I am so excited to report that the frogs have perfect pitch hearing and they love to sing along to music too! Yes! They sing right on key and they move right on cue! I am totally sure they can tune-in our prayers with their etheric remote royal radars to recognize rapports with me and you! Sure I know it’s true just like you do too! Who knew? You, me, Walt Disney and the critters!
I was the only kid I knew that was such an animal lover! In the 70s I lived in Berkeley with my Maine Coon cat, Rhythm Macy who loved all the loud rockin’ dance music swingin’ sounds and my musicians friends also great animal lovers with dogs, cats, birds and snakes, all of whom loved to boogie get down dancing or tracing to the music! Michael Borbrige dear friend and I loved to take ourselves and our animals out to a local Redwoods park for a picnic and jam affair complete with every animal had their special food and treats and blankets and toys. Michael really hypnotized his animals so charmingly they were at ease and pleased. Rhythm Macy walked with me around town like Pied Piper playing on my flute, she was in a psychic trance through all the urban sidewalk obstacles I just held a clear vision of good path for her through the maze of pedestrians, wheel chairs persons, bike racks, planters, skate borders, etc… She would follow perfect from my vision like a spotlight so she would keep up with my brisk walk through the maze… until we got to the music store or the after-dinner hours music showcase gig where the 4 star restaurateurs made her special bowls of exquisite leftovers and let her hangout until closing and we walked, hopped, jumped, danced our way home. This one picnic day with Michael and our animals friends, we had a grand time, but right at the last just before we packed up to leave, we could not find Macy! We looked and called everywhere amidst the squirrels scurrying around and up and down trees and the blue jays wild calls and their dive falls from up up in the trees tall, Calling “Tay! Tay! Tay!” Pulling back up just before they reached the ground. We looked and called some more and later that night I came back to the park and walked everywhere around and within looking and calling for her. She never strayed far even though she was a successful hunter of birds, she always came home via the open bathroom window and called my apartment home sweet home. Never gone before. I was heartbroken that we were separated due to my grand picnic plan or someone thought she was lost and adopted her because she was friendly they got their hands on her? I returned several times over next few days making extensive scouting excursions all around and through the park everywhere! Nada! I tried to prepare to surrender to the fact that Macy may have found another home and hope she did not die due to this somehow holding out still for my dear wonderful feline friend and family. So soon about a week or so after her missing, I was in a very strong prayerful trance for ALL LIFE ON EARTH one early morning around 3/4 AM I am thinking/praying for finally my dearest family and friends and I happen to remember my dear Rhythm Macy missing member
and I just REALLY focused and sent her the message that she is really loved and wanted at home and that I NEVER meant to lose her or get her confused… I missed her soo much and to.d her that the streets were very quiet at this time of day and that our apartment wasn’t that far from the park SO! PLEASE FOLLOW THE LAZER BEAMS OF OUR PRAYERS AND GET YOUR ASS HOME!
Within a few minutes I heard sounds in the kitchen and went to see Macy with her eyes on horizontal slits instead of vertical slits more usual! What a celebration! Dr Seuss and Meaghan send
Susan, I am filled with joy!! upon reading “The Return of Oscar”!! And the return of your happiness through this little guy. Pema C. is just the greatest. I love her also. Especially when she advises to “just sit” through whatever is happening.
Thank you Kathey and everyone for your warm responses to Oscar’s return. I turned that photo I posted on my blog into my wallpaper for my computer screen, so I can see Oscar’s great face each and every day. I had also moved a beautiful spring peeper frog with us in the kiddie pond when we came to our new house, and saw him often during his breeding cycle. He pretty much moved into the pond and bellowed for a lady friend for weeks. Then, silence. And he was gone. I am hoping to see him again come next spring. He was green beauty!
My heart is so happy over the return of Oscar! Your “frog blogs” have opened me up to all the magic the frogs in my pond have brought to my life. Blessings to you and Oscar!!
Thank you so much for this beautiful story. I have so much to learn from it. “Run Away” has been a motto of mine in the last few years and I promise myself this time, after moving 1400km away to just try to put down roots here.
I’m glad you are on ‘my’ planet Susan.