There are stranger things in the world today Than ever you dreamed could be. There’s beauty in some of the commonest things If only you’ve eyes to see.
Ever since Peter Rabbit was a baby bunny and then had made his own home in the dear Old Briar Patch, he had known Old Mr. Toad, and never once had Peter suspected that he could sing.
Now that they had discovered that he really has a very beautiful singing voice, they began to have a greater appreciation for Old Mr. Toad. This was especially so for Peter. He got in the habit of going over to the Smiling Pool every day just to sit on the bank and listen to Old Mr. Toad.
“Why didn’t you ever tell us before that you could sing?” he asked one day, as Old Mr. Toad looked up at him from the Smiling Pool.
“What would be the use?” replied Old Mr. Toad. “You probably wouldn’t have believed me if I had.”
Peter knew that this was true, and he couldn’t find any answer ready. At last he ventured another question. “And if I’ve known you for so long why haven’t I ever heard you sing before?”
“You have,” said Old Mr. Toad. “I sang right in this very place last spring, and the spring before, and the spring before that. You’ve sat on that very bank lots of times while I was singing.”
Peter was confused and still very curious so he ventured another question. “Have I ever heard you singing up on the meadows or in the Old Orchard?”
“Oh no,” replied Old Mr. Toad, “I only sing in the springtime at the Smiling Pool. That’s the time for singing. I just have to sing then. In the summer it is too hot, and in the winter I sleep. I always return to my old home to sing. You know I was born here. All of the toads gather here in the spring to sing, so of course I come too.”
Old Mr. Toad then filled out his odd music bag under his chin and began to sing again. Peter watched him. Now it just happened that Old Mr. Toad was facing him, and so Peter looked down straight into his eyes. He never had looked directly into Mr. Toad’s eyes before, and now he just stared and stared, for it came over him that those eyes were very beautiful, very beautiful indeed.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, “what beautiful eyes you have, Mr. Toad!”
“So I’ve been told,” replied Old Mr. Toad. “The Toad family has always had beautiful eyes. There is an old saying that every Toad has jewels in his head, of course he hasn’t, not real jewels. It is just the beautiful eyes. Excuse me, Peter, I’m needed in that chorus.” Old Mr. Toad once more swelled out his throat and began to sing.
Peter watched him a while longer and then hopped away to the dear Old Briar-patch to sit and ponder all that he had learned today about his friend Old Mr. Toad.
Sharing a note I wrote this morning in response to receiving a “Happy Mother’s Day” wish from a family friend.
Good Morning Dear Oma,
Your “Happy Mother’s Day” wish has found me in a contemplative moment as I sit here at the computer keyboard checking emails this morning.
For the past 7 years I have found Mother’s Day to be so very bittersweet. I stand in that space between what has passed and what is present.
I think of my mom and her passing on May 13, 2014 and the great loss I have felt ever since. I think of all the Mother’s Day celebrations she hosted for her own mother and sisters for so many years and reflect on how everything has changed so much since she has been gone. I miss her so very much.
I think of my own journey from “mothering” all of those young cherubs I babysat in my teens, and then the oodles of hours spent in my 5th grade classroom from year-to-year nurturing all those kiddos, and then moving on to birthing my own two children and raising them amongst the many homeschooling families we met all along the way (including my much loved sister-friend in motherhood your dear Lisa & E & A & T).
“Mother’s Day“ is an odd notion to me, for truly every day is mother’s day – tending to our loved ones and letting them know how very much they are seen, heard, valued, and understood. This is the way of mothering daily. This is what I do and what I know best. It is how I am in the world – every hour, minute, year – always.
What actually makes me happy in this present moment, Oma, is to say how much I love being connected to you, your family, and to let you know how very glad I am you became a mother so very long ago. It has made all the difference in my life.
Sending love and a smile to help light the way,
Karen ;0) PS –The sun is now up and the flowers are stretching towards the light. I think that is how I will spend my day and I hope you do too. Outside soaking up nature’s beauty. Time to P.L.A.Y.
Old Mr. Toad paid no attention to Peter, not even when he was spoken to. He was so absorbed in his singing that he just didn’t hear. Peter sat there a while to listen; then he called out to Jimmy Skunk and Billy Possum, who were also listening to the music, and they were just as surprised as Peter. Then he spied Jerry Muskrat at the other end of the Smiling Pool and hurried over there. Peter was so full of the discovery he had made that he could think of nothing else and he fairly ached to share this with others.
“Jerry!” he cried. “Oh, Jerry Muskrat! Do you know that Old Mr. Toad can sing?”
Jerry looked surprised that Peter should ask such a question. “Of course I know it,” he said. “It would be mighty funny if I didn’t know it, seeing that he is the sweetest singer in the Smiling Pool and has sung here every spring since I can remember.”
Peter looked very much chagrined. “I didn’t know it until just now,” he confessed. “I didn’t believe him when he told me that he could sing. I wonder how he ever learned.”
He didn’t learn any more than you learned how to jump,” replied Jerry. “It just came to him naturally. His father sang, and his grandfather, and his great grandfather, way back to the beginning of things. I’m surprised you do not know about this.”
“I don’t actually. Oh, please do tell me more about it Jerry,” pleaded Peter.
“All right, I will,” replied Jerry good-naturedly. “In the first place, Old Mr. Toad belongs to a very old and honorable family, one of the very oldest. I’ve heard say that it goes way back almost to the very beginning of things when there wasn’t much land. Anyway, the first Toad, the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Old Mr. Toad and own cousin to the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Grandfather Frog, was one of the first to leave the water for dry land.
“Old Mother Nature met him hopping along and making hard work of it because, of course, it was so new. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘Are you not content with the water where you were born?’”
“Mr. Toad bowed very low. ‘Yes,’ he said humbly. ‘I’ll go right back there if you say so. I thought there must be some things worth finding out on the land, and that I might be of some use in the Great World.’”
“His answer pleased Old Mother Nature. She was worried. She had planted all kinds of things on the land, and they were springing up everywhere, and she had discovered that bugs of many kinds liked the tender green things and were increasing so fast that they threatened to strip the land of all that she had planted. She had so many things to tend to that she hadn’t the time to take care of the bugs. ‘If you truly want to be of some use,’ she said, ‘you can tend to some of those bugs.’”
“Mr. Toad went right to work, and Old Mother Nature went about some of her other business. Having so many things to look after, she quite forgot about Mr. Toad, and it was several weeks before she came that way again. Right in the middle of a great bare place where the bugs had eaten everything was now a beautiful green spot, and patiently hopping from plant to plant was Mr. Toad, snapping up every bug he could see. He didn’t notice Old Mother Nature and he kept right on working. She watched him for a while as he hopped from plant to plant catching bugs as fast and he could, and then she spoke.
“’Have you stayed right here since I last saw you?’ she asked.”
“Mr. Toad gave a start of surprise. ‘Yes, I have,’ he said.”
“’I thought you wanted to see the Great World and learn things,’ she said.”
“Mr. Toad looked a little embarrassed. ‘So I did,’ he replied, ‘and I wanted to be of some use, and the bugs have kept me so busy there was not time to travel. Besides, I have learned a great deal right here. I couldn’t get around fast enough to save all the plants, I’ve just saved what I could.’”
“At that Old Mother Nature’s face lit up with one of her most beautiful smiles. ‘Mr. Toad,’ she said, ‘if you could have just one wish what would it be?’”
“Mr. Toad hesitated a few minutes and then said quietly, ‘A beautiful voice.’”
“It was Old Mother Nature’s turn to look surprised. ‘A beautiful voice!’ she exclaimed. “Why would you want a beautiful voice?’”
“So that I can express my happiness in the most beautiful way I know of, by singing,’ replied Mr. Toad.”
“’Then you shall have it,’ declared Old Mother Nature, ‘although not all the time lest you be tempted to forget your work, which , you know, when you are of service is a real source of true happiness. In the spring of each year you shall go back to your home in the water and there for a time you shall sing to your heart’s content, and there shall be no sweeter voice than yours.’”
“Sure enough, when the next spring came, Mr. Toad was filled with a great longing to go home. When he got there, he found that in his throat was a little music bag; and when he swelled it out, he had one of the sweetest voices in the world. And so it has been ever since with the Toad Family. Old Mr. Toad is one of the sweetest singers in the Smiling Pool, and when it is time to go back to work he is most diligent in Mother Nature’s garden,” concluded Jerry Muskrat.
“I’ve found Old Mr. Toad!” cried Peter Rabbit, hurrying after Jimmy Skunk.
“Where?” Jimmy asked.
“In the water,” declared Peter. “He’s sitting right over there where the water is shallow, and he didn’t notice me at all. Let’s get Billy Possum, and then peek over the edge of the Smiling Pool and watch to see if Old Mr. Toad really does sing.”
So they rounded up Billy Possum, and the three quietly approached the edge of the Smiling Pool, where the bank was low and the water shallow. Sure enough, there sat Old Mr. Toad with just his head out of the water. And while they were watching him, something very strange happened.
“What’s the matter with him?” whispered Peter, his big eyes looking as if they might pop out of his head.
“If he doesn’t watch out, he’ll blow up and bust!” exclaimed Jimmy.
“Listen!” whispered Billy Possum. “Do my old ears hear right? It appears to me that that song is coming right from where Old Mr. Toad is sitting.”
It certainly did appear so, and of all the songs that glad spring day there was none sweeter. Indeed there were few as sweet.
The only trouble was the song was so very short. It lasted only for two or three seconds. And when it ended, Old Mr. Toad looked quite his natural usual self again. Peter looked at Jimmy Skunk, Jimmy looked at Billy Possum, and Billy looked at Peter. And no one had a word to say. They all just sat so surprised by this unexpected revelation. Then all three looked back at Old Mr. Toad.
And even as they looked, his throat began to swell and swell and swell, until it was no wonder that Jimmy Skunk had thought that he was in danger of blowing up. And then, when it stopped swelling, there came again those beautiful little notes, so sweet and tremulous that Peter actually held his breath to listen. There was no doubt that Old Mr. Toad was singing just as he had said he was going to, and it was just as true that his song was one of the sweetest if not the sweetest of all the chorus from and around the Smiling Pool. It was very hard to believe, and yet Peter and Jimmy and Billy both saw and heard, and that was enough. Their appreciation for Old Mr. Toad grew tremendously as they listened.
“How does he do it?” whispered Peter.
“With that bag under his chin, of course,” replied Jimmy Skunk. “Don’t you see it’s only when that is swelled out that he sings? It’s a regular music bag. And I didn’t know he had any such bag there at all.”
“I wish,” said Peter Rabbit, feeling of his throat, “that I had a music bag like that in my throat so I could join in the singing.”
“Hold on, what are those long sparkly strands in the water?” asked Jimmy.
“I don’t know, there seem to be so very many spotty dots inside them all lined up,” said Peter.
Just then Mr. Redwing Blackbird briefly appeared again and said, “I overheard you two talking and thought I’d let you know that those strings of black little pearl beauties in the water are actually egg strands. In a few weeks those fertilized eggs will hatch out of the strands and be wiggling about as tadpoles.”
“What? How can that be?” asked Jimmy Skunk.
“Just you wait and see,” said Mr. Redwing Blackbird.
“How could that happen? What did I miss?” Peter Rabbit persisted with great curiosity.
“Overnight the female toads arrived to listen to the all male toad chorus and once they mated the egg strands were left here in the Smiling Pool. It happens every year about this time,” said Mr. Redwing Blackbird who then took flight and left Peter and Jimmy Skunk with a bunch of questions on the tip of their tongues.