A pond in springtime. Watercolor by Carolyn Newberger

Illuminating the Hidden Forest, Chapter 41: Filled by time and grace

We have nowhere to go and time stretches out in front of us.

To read the previous chapters of ‘Illuminating the Hidden Forest,’ click here.

April 9, 2020

Walks in Kennedy Park have taken on the quality of a Fellini movie, where surreal stories seem to glide through time. We drift through the trails with no sense of minutes or even hours passing, wondering at a row of acorn shells snuggled into a slit in a log, gazing into the distance of the vast swamp at the base of Lenox Mountain.

Acorns snuggled into a log. Photo: Carolyn Newberger

As in a Fellini movie, people float in and out. We project our voices to each other across distances, with greetings like, “What a lovely day,” “Enjoy your walk,” nothing important, just something to connect across our swath of time and space.

After waving to a family perched atop Balance Rock, we descend to the beaver pond, and there, after an absence of several cloudy days, the frogs are singing again. I squat on the bank, absorbed in a mating pair glued together on a log poking above the water, itself a gift of a long-ago beaver. He on top of she (I presume), they are motionless on the log, with an occasional barely discernible spasm, until, suddenly, they leap into the water and swim their separate ways.

Frogs on the pond. Photo: Carolyn Newberger

We stay where we are, continuing to gaze into the water at the quiet reflections within, at the frogs on the surface, stock still one moment, darting at each other the next. All the while they are singing their songs, some tenor, some alto or soprano, and occasionally a bass note; a full chorus of frogs.*

On another day at another pond, we sit on the bank and watch flies skittering on the surface. When a fish comes up, we follow the rings of gently breaking water outward until they disappear. Lily snuggles in a lap.

We have nowhere to go and time stretches out in front of us. We no longer reach for our phones. We settle into each moment, calmly observing, just being. We are being filled by time.

In our home each evening, we now connect with our family on FaceTime. We sit on our rockers in front of our iPad and just hang out with them. Sometimes they bring their device to the dinner table and we hang through dinner until we’re so tired we wish them good night and head to bed. One night we hung out with the family for an hour and a half, sometimes talking, sometimes not, just being filled with family.

In this time of loss and fear, we are among the fortunate. So far, my family, neighbors and friends are secure and well. As I watch the nightly news and absorb the magnitude of people’s losses, I worry that writing about fulfillments I discover in this stretch of time and seclusion diminishes the importance of others’ pain. I hope it does not do that.

Somehow, in our case, as we suspend life on the outside, we seem to be expanding life on the inside. Our spirits feel as though they are moving through our bodies and opening themselves to the surrounding world, be it singing frogs, darting flies or a beloved family eating dinner at the kitchen table. In this season of Passover, Ramadan and Easter commemoration overlaid with existential dread, it feels like grace.

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*Frogs have inspired poets for millennia, from “The Frogs” written by Aristophanes in 405 BC (their croaking refrain — “Brekekekèx-koàx-koáx (Greek: Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ),” to the present day. For more modern frog poems, click this link: https://ww.poemhunter.com/poems/frog/page-1/426491/.