Walking in the evening dusk last summer, my husband and I disturbed the play of three young boys when our dog, smelling something in the air, began to bark furiously. Our sheltie tugged insistently on his leash, lunging toward a bucket on the ground that had captivated the boys’ attention until we interlopers showed up.
My husband put the dog into a sit-stay, and when the dog was calm again, we apologized to the boys.
The youngest, not quite old enough to be in school yet, reached into the bucket and pulled out something between his cupped hands. “Look what we’ve got!” he exclaimed.
He opened his hands just a sliver, and my husband smiled. “A smelly toad,” he teased. “Better be careful.”
“Nuh-uh,” said one of the older boys. “It’s a frog!” He turned to his brother. “Show him,” he commanded.
The Keeper of the Frog opened his hands a little more. “See,” he said, “its back feet are webbed. It’s a frog!”
“Impressive,” I said, smiling. We would have stayed to hear more—we live in an adjoining neighborhood, an “active adult community” that has no children except for the occasional visiting grandchild who has no reason to come out in search of other children.
But the dog was beginning to twitch, so we apologized again for his bad behavior and bid the boys farewell, grinning as we turned back to our own community.
A few days later, I wandered onto our second-story deck with my morning coffee to join my husband, who generally gets up earlier than I do on weekends. As I came out the door, he smiled at me and pointed to the corner of the deck, where a tiny creature sat near my pot of basil.
I leaned over and peered at him. “How the heck did he get up here?” I asked my husband.
“I guess he climbed up the bricks,” he answered.
Remembering the boys, I asked, “He’s a frog, right?”
“A tree frog, I think,” my husband answered as I went back into the house to get the camera. And since I’m a long way from elementary school science, I also did some research later that day to find that telling the difference between a frog and a toad is a little more complex than just checking for webbed feet, since some frogs don’t have webbed feet. I also discovered that tree frogs actually have little suction cups on their feet that allow them to climb.
The little guy—or gal, since my investigation didn’t get that far—visited us several times last summer, and our guess is that it came in search of the water we poured over the basil—not a good sign for our ecosystem, we didn’t think, considering we live next to green space that borders a protected stream.
I promptly forgot our visitor until this week, when a friend of mine who is an atheist posted on social media a picture of Darwin with the caption, “We’ll let you teach creationism in our schools when you let us teach evolution in your churches.”
And it occurred to me yet again, in what each time seems an epiphany to me, that people on those either/or extremes forget that many, many, many of us occupy the space in the middle. I’m a Christian. I believe in evolution. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. And I don’t see any reason to teach the biblical story of creation in a science classroom.
I’m an English teacher. I’ve read and taught the literature that we collectively refer to as “creation stories”—some of which we refer to as “creation myths.” I understand that many religions of the world have gone the way of myth as science has explained that we don’t need a god to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky. And as we come to a fuller understanding of our world, scientists and theologians continue to try to explain the mystery and the complexity of a world we will never fully understand.
For now, I choose to believe in a Father-Mother God big enough to create complex creatures that can evolve as the need arises—a God too big to be boxed in by people on either side who think they know with certainty how our world came into existence. Why shouldn’t I believe in such a God? Do any parents ever expect that the children they birth will stay as they are at that moment when their infants slip-slide their way into this beautiful, intricate world?
I know I’m not the only person in this world who believes that contradictions can coexist and that we can, in fact, celebrate those contradictions.
So, dance with me. Let’s strike a chord against dissonance. Sing to me in three-part harmony. Tell me your stories of the in-between.