In The Grand Scheme Of Things

You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.
You can learn a lot from the tiniest of things.

I turned 45 years old at exactly 2:12 a.m. today. After a restless night, I was awake quite early this morning as the sun began to rise. I found myself thinking, while the rest of the creatures in my house slept, about how old I thought 45 was when my own mother was 45 and I was a whopping 19 years old. Back then, 45 seemed ancient. At 45 my mother was recently separated and embarking on a new life, one she probably never had expected when she was just 19. Now that I am 45 I can attest that I do not feel as old as the Sphinx. That 19 year old girl still lives inside me. She’s just been roughed up a bit on the outside and the extra 26 years have widened her eyes.

I had a wonderful birthday. Started my day with a 20-mile bike ride that I never would have been able to do 10, or even 20, years ago. Followed that up with hours spent lounging by the pool with my family and good friends. Throughout the day, dozens of well wishes popped onto my Facebook page from friends new and old, each one a little present in itself. For dinner we grilled out and I got to open more gifts than I probably deserve at this advanced age. And, as the day wound down, I headed up to the boys’ room to read to them just as I do every night (for as long as they continue to ask me to).

It was then that I noticed one of our four African Dwarf frogs was not doing well. It was upside down at the top of the frog tank, one of its buddies hanging close to its side helping to keep it up at the top of the tank. I told the boys that he (they’re all named after dwarves from The Hobbit) would not likely survive the night. It was a tough moment that we all knew would come someday. We did not expect it to be today. We purchased these frogs three years ago. Truth be told, they’re more my pets than my sons’. I’ve been the froggy momma. I clean their aquariums, feed them, talk to them. They are my precious charges. Seeing one belly up hit me harder than it should. After all, it’s just a frog, right? Everything has to die. I know this. I’ve been expecting these small amphibians to perish ever since the day I brought them home.

But today, as I celebrate having enjoyed 45 amazing years on this planet, watching a little creature struggle in his final moments was poignant and poetic. I tell my boys all the time that life is death. There cannot be one without the other. It is the one black-and-white truth we are guaranteed. Everything that is alive will at some point die. Nothing and no one escapes. If all goes well, we are wise enough to cherish our moments and lucky enough to have a plethora of them to recall. But it all comes down to this. We come into this world and we leave it. The life of that darling little frog is no less important than mine. It’s as much a part of the grand scheme of things as I am. Its passing on my birthday, as heartbreaking as it is, is simply a reminder that my days are numbered too. I must remember not to squander them. The next 26 years, if I’m granted them, will pass in an instant. Then I will be 71 as my mother is this year and looking back on 45 and wondering where the time went because I still feel that 19 year old girl inside.


    1. I completely agree. The tough part is being tuned in enough to the small things as they happen to allow them to make the impact they are meant to provide. 🙂

  1. Happy Birthday to you! I too just turned 45 and have quite similar thoughts to you as you expressed about your mom. I thought she was so ancient when she was 45… now I understand so much in life so differently. Have an amazing year – great post!

  2. I am older than you are, feel young as you do and think better than I ever have. I had often wondered is this just me, now I know it is not. Your writing is easy reading and your thoughts come through soft and clear, I to love the creatures, both large and small. Though, it can, as you pointed out be an investment of your emotions. I have been feeding a group (ten or more) squirrels and an assortment of other small and not so small animals for almost a year now. Well, my heart just sank the other day when a very bright red young fox came through, it seems from nowhere, and locked its jaws onto one of the squirrels and then slowly trotted off. But not before first taking a look at me through my kitchen window, which is my favorite spot for observing my little friends. Right away, I was hurt and conflicted; did I cause this death by providing a feeding ground for these animals and easy prey for predators. It truly pains me to think this and I have tried to reconcile my thoughts and feelings against the good feelings I get from watching the animals feed. Though, the fox (s) is still around, I am more vigilant and it seems so are the squirrels and the other small animals. Happy birthday and may you have many, many more.

    1. Thanks for your nice comment. No matter what you may or may not have done to feed those animals, the fox too had to eat. Perhaps your feeding the small animals permitted him an easier opportunity for a meal, but he still would have found food even if it wasn’t under your watchful eye. I wondered when I put our four frogs into this bigger aquarium together if they might have a harder time finding their food, but I had to try. I will never know if that frog died because he was hungry or sick. I’ve tried to give myself over to the understanding that there are many things in this life that I cannot control…including all other living creatures. We do the best we can, and then we have to give ourself over to the universe and recognize that we are not as powerful as we would like to believe.

      1. Thank you; I needed to hear that. I feel much better now. Though I had said to myself that it was not my fault, it is reassuring to hear those words from someone else.

    2. James:

      Suppose the fox was a nursing mother? There are no rules to the math of the real world, but perhaps minus one squirrel equals plus six beautiful fox kits.
      All these things are beautiful and precious in their lives, and, as Justine observes, in their deaths as well.

      Be at peace,


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