The Toad in the Snow

Lessons From My Dogs

The Toad in the Snow

Spring has gently touched central Virginia and as I go to sleep I hear the chorus of peepers outside just as I hear the birds singing at daybreak.

Although spring came early to us, on February 19th spring was no where in sight as the skies dumped down six inches of glorious soft snow—snow that had eluded us all winter long. The next day, I took the dogs out into this magical white world. We walked over snow-covered trails behind our house, untouched by footsteps until we came along. The sun’s rays reflected off a white world and I felt the snow’s softness; I felt its strength. I loved the silence it brought with it. I was walking, thinking these thoughts when I saw the toad. The toad sat right in the middle of the trail before us, its frozen body, normally such a symbol of decadent warmth, absurd against the white. I approached, considering nature’s harsh ways and the fate of a toad which had succumb to freezing temperatures. I pulled up the dogs to prevent them from investigating its body. Thinking of my sister, great frog and toad aficionado, I bent to scoop it up and honour its short toad life.

What happened next brought tears to my eyes. As I crouched down to examine this spectral vision, the toad bowed its head before me, closing its eyes and hunching its gelid back. It was alive. The incongruity of a toad on snow awed me, and I, too, stood frozen for a moment. Then I reached out, scooping the brown body into my hands, warming his amphibian frame. And…slipped him into my pocket.

A joy began to grow in me then. With the toad safely warming up inside my pocket, I led the dogs through the beautiful world stepping carefully. I had endured a particularly difficult time and this near frozen toad seemed symbolic of rebirth. In Animal Speak, Ted Andrews speaks of frogs and toads as symbols of abundance, fertility and transformation. As we all walked along, the toad began chirping like a chick. But when the chirps subsided, I worried it would suffocate before we made it home. All was well, however and, as my friend regained warmth there in the safety of my pocket, and later in our home, so too did my heart.

I released the toad when the temperatures warmed up, yet wondered about it hopping along or perhaps burrowing beneath leaves when the cold nights returned. But Nature has a wisdom far surpassing my own, and I let my thoughts follow the rhythms of the seasons, and accept.

It is now April. I stepped outside on a brisk morning and there at my feet was a toad.

“Is that… you?” I asked. The little fellow let me stroke his bumpy back, perhaps remembering a hand who, once long ago, offered shelter and warmth. But I will never know. Now, at night there are two of them. They sit under the outside light and await the evening bugs. And I, cozy in my bed, surrounded by three sleeping dogs, can think of the pair of them out there in the warm, bug-laden air so far removed from February’s freezing cold.

The year 2012 has brought challenges for many I know. Therefore, let us all be like the toad in the snow in the face of pain and difficulty: persevere and never give up…for maybe, somewhere, a hand is waiting to reach down and lift us up.