A Short Carefree Life

Walking to the University yesterday morning, I came across a young American toad, smashed on the pavement of our street.  Conceived during a watery orgy in April, he hatched within ten days and survived up to two months as a tadpole, dodging predators such as fish, water beetles, bullfrogs, aquatic turtles, snakes and herons.  Crawling onto land, he then made it through the summer, feasting on a wide variety of insects and invertebrates while escaping the notice of raccoons, hawks and terrestrial snakes, only to succumb to an automobile.

We humans, expecting to live 80 years or more, find the death of children and young wildlife especially sad.  Yet, most American toads live less than a year in the wild though, in captivity, they are capable of living 30 years or more; those lucky enough to escape accident or predation for two years are mature enough to breed.  This young toad, having lived for almost six months, had already survived six lifetimes of the flies buzzing about his carcass; were it not for an unfortunate misstep, he may have lived for five years and produced thousands of offspring.

It's a dangerous world out there, even without the added risk of human activity.  On the other hand, this young amphibian had no worries during his brief life; oblivious to the presence of predators and unencumbered by the anxiety, guilt, regret and mysticism that haunt the life of humans, his was a short but carefree existence.