My favorite series of books for children, hands down, is Frog and Toad Are Friends (sorry, Harry Potter!). Arnold Lobell’s charming stories about two amphibian besties are remarkable for the simplicity that belies their true depth. The profundity of these tales, which tackle such big subjects as anxiety, fear, risk-taking, self-esteem, the importance of patience, perseverance and goals and yes, most of all friendship, is mind-boggling (especially when you consider they are part of the Scholastic “I Can Read Series”, Level 2).
In the collection Frog and Toad All Year, a book about the changing seasons, there is a chapter called The Corner. The friends get caught in a cold rain storm and Toad, the resident curmudgeon, declares the day “spoiled”. Frog, the eternal optimist, soothes him with tea and cake and a story about how when he was small (“not much bigger than a pollywog”), his father promised him on a gloomy day that spring was “just around the corner”.
And as children (pollywogs) are wont to do, he takes his father at his literal word and spends the day searching for the corner spring is just around, without success. Until he returns home and, turning the corner of his own little house, finds his parents working in the garden. “I was very happy”, he says, “I had found the corner spring was just around.”
In case you hadn’t heard, last year spring was very slooooow to arrive for those of us living in the Northeastern U.S. this year. A particularly ambitious winter reached its icy fingers deep into April, what with three decent snowfalls and only two days above 60 degrees so far (and most well below 50!). Trees were leafless; grass dull, sparse and yellow, flowers are few and very far between.
It’s like the fabled Miser brothers got into a snit and Snowy emerged decidedly victorious; never mind the groundhog’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter, last year we hit 10 weeks and counting! And the sun was a no-show more days than not, to the point where we started greeting it with a verrry sarcastic, “Well, helloooo, stranger!” In the thought bubbles over our heads, not out loud; New Englanders are die-hard and prefer to suffer in silence.
Ha, ha, ha, but not ME, of course! I suffer very loudly and publically, as anyone who reads me regularly knows. So I won’t re-hash how freaking miserable things have been around here, because you have heard all about it ad naseum.
But recently…dare I say it? It seems perhaps Frog’s father is right: spring is just around the corner! Metaphorically speaking, that is—it is FREEEEEEZING and miserable as I write this.
In that same collection, there is a story called Christmas Eve in which Frog is late to a holiday get-together and Toad, considering all the horrible fates that may have befallen him, rushes about collecting the tools he would need to solve these (imaginary) problems. Although I prefer to think I favor the level-headed and wise Frog, there are several incidents where Toad expends extraordinary effort in order to accomplish something that could have been done with ease. Like when he sings, plays music and reads stories and poems to his seedlings to get them to grow; or when he makes Frog spend an entire day searching for a lost button that was on the floor of his room the whole time; or when he literally bangs his head against the wall trying to think of a tale to tell his ailing friend.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m more like Toad. You can say it; I know.
In yoga, we are told to find the balance between effort and ease; it teaches us to harmonize our willfulness with our acceptance of the flow. In spite of the fact that I have been practicing yoga regularly for going on 5 years now, I am still heavy on the “will” and light on the “acceptance”. In fact, I am cringing a bit thinking of all the times my very excellent teacher will call a pose I can do with ease and I override her by doing something that requires a great deal of effort.
Effort is KING! Ease is for lazy people! Now, excuse me while I stage a 4 act play in order to assist my garden in growing!!!!
Is it just me?
So here’s the thing: we all know that whether I stage the 4 act play or not? Spring is just around the corner. The sun will grow warmer, the garden will grow; trees will be reborn.
Spring is just around the corner! And, as Dr. Seuss might say, it will come without begging, it will come without work. It will come without mowing, hoeing, or us whining like jerks. Spring will come whether we have “earned” it or not; spring is given freely to everyone, the whole lot.
What I am starting to understand is that this is how MOST of life actually works. Spring will come whether we lift a finger or not; we then repay the bounty we have been gifted by tending to our gardens, literally and figuratively. The seasons exist to teach us, over and over again, that “patience is power…not an absence of action; rather… wait(ing) on the right time to act” as Fulton J. Sheen puts it.
Patience is power. We can run around like Toad planning for a future disaster or spend a lifetime searching for the “right” corner to turn, but what if we could just accept that spring will come and prepare for that future bounty? Can we stop trying to force things and become more flexible in both our timetables and our goals?
Effort and ease. Willfulness and acceptance. Yes, “go confidently in the direction of your dreams!” (to paraphrase Thoreau), but observe poolside rules—no running and NO DIVING.
I cannot tell a lie (and people HATE this about me, btw)…on this very day, I found myself expending manic effort trying to solve a problem–the signs of spring in my own life, after such a long, hard winter have made me eager to hurry it along. Yeah, I AM TOAD, and I admit it! So I speak not from a lofty priestess perspective; I am down here in the trenches, trying to teach what I must learn.
Spring is just around the corner. And just as it is the law of nature that the flowers will bloom again, so will we. When we accept the ebb and flow of life, we trust that “to every thing there is a season” if we only have the patience to wait for it.
Originally Published on Your New Best Friend