Last evening I spent a bit of time in a mud puddle in the middle of a dirt road. It was about six feet long, two feet wide, very muddy, with some green algae hanging around the edges. I peered in. One of the children on the other side of the pool scooped some dirty water out with a small, clear plastic container.
“Ah,” no exotic vernal pool species showed up, no fairy shrimp, only tadpoles about the size of short grain rice. Somebody else peering into the mud said cynically, “They probably won’t make it.” Life didn’t look promising here. There was no mesa mint blooming at the edge of the puddle, only some tiny brass buttons in the grass a few feet away.
So where were the shrimp? If they were around, then they were still in the hardpan below the water, in a cryptobiotic state. They have sensed – not enough water.
Cryptobiosis is the state of life entered by a oganism in response to adverse environmental conditions such as drying. In the cryptobiotic state, all metabolic procedures stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair. An organism in a cryptobiotic state can essentially live indefinitely until environmental conditions return to being hospitable. When this occurs, the organism will return to its metabolic state of life as it was prior to the cryptobiosis.
Smart, those shrimp. They knew it hadn’t rained enough. They were hanging out cryptobiotically.
And the tadpoles, they had launched, optimistically, and they were frolicking in the vernal puddle, getting ready to become spadefoot toads. Rain is predicted for next weekend. It just might be enough to fill the puddle again, to give the tadpoles time.
I’m impressed. Tadpoles thrive in inhospitable places.
They had launched here, they had hatched with an expectation, with a kind of biological faith in their survival. And for the moment, they were powering their way up and down their muddy lake, gaining weight and strength.
I thought of us, the living, here in the puddle of our now. We too have launched. This is it. Our present puddle is our present place to paddle. We don’t have a choice to hang out cyrptobiotically and wait to become shrimp. This is our time.
Today we flip our fins through our own oddly chosen muddy creases in the earth and imagine ourselves someday getting out, onto land, and hopping off as spadefoots into the lovely brass buttons in the nearby grass.
What to do?
Mud puddle theology: We are not shrimp in a cryptobiotic state.
Mud puddle theology: We did not make the puddle we paddle through.
Muddle puddle theology: We do not know exactly when it will rain again and how much.
Mud puddle theology: We have been given the power of movement.
There is inside of us a kind of built-in hope for more rain.