After the rain, squished efts littered the wet pavement as I walked my mutts on their canine constitutional.
Emma, my black Lab mix, and Gracie, my cattle dog mix, seemed oblivious to the corpses of amphibian young that had become so much road kill between the wooded terrain on one side of the road and the brook on the other, even as they sniffed the grasses and tree trunks along the road not far from our driveway.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of these tiny orange creatures had lost their lives in a matter of hours of a massive salamander migration as Mother Nature met what's usually scant traffic along our country road. It's a phenomenon that can easily been overlooked, or seen as the sort of road kill you'd expect as you're driving down the highway.
For me, it's become an exercise in literally lending a hand, scrutinizing which orange eft bodies have been run over, which are lying dead and which are quite alive but motionless as they rest up in their long journey to wherever they're slowly going. (Why DID the eft cross the road?) As I consider which ones need help crossing the rod, Emma and Gracie seem they could care less. They want to keep moving and aren't even interested, as I'd imagine they would be, in eating this "salamander jerky" lying along our path.
(Too often I've seen those little paws manage to land on a living eft and I panic, although rarely have I watched an eft be fatally crushed by my 45-pound or 25-pound dog. Whew!)
But I insist the pups head with me this way and that so that like Pa Uber I can pick up each live eft that could be threatened by any oncoming traffic and then deliver it to safety before any nearby traffic does us all in. Call it a random act of kindness or an obsession, but it may simply be the St. Francis in me. Sometimes I deliver the newt to the side of the road in the direction he or she seems to be heading, sometimes I try to carefully fling the thing at low altitude so that it lands on a blade of grass or a low-lying leaf to break its fall. Occasionally, I get to deliver it gently to the ground.
Never has it said thank you, but that's OK. I usually glance down to see whether it's moving, but it's probably in shock from the giant's Lyft.
THIS ISN'T ABOUT ONLY NEWTS, OF COURSE.
I can't help but wonder, as I see the little orange bodies, alive or squished, along the roadway, whether it isn't a situation like all of those homeless camped out along our sidewalks, like so many refugees trying to get find sanctuary in a world where safety (like sanity) seems to be a disappearing commodity. Or like thousands of children who are victims of abuse and neglect whose future is in the hands of us all.
Our hearts tell us these are dreadfully wrong, but our instincts at what is it, self-care? -- that allows us to ignore and look the away from.
Like those migrating newts, we are truly all vulnerable, some more than others. An aging population without adequate health care, children who suffer from hunger or food insecurity, veterans who are homeless or without access to timely treatment for trauma they've suffered, women who are desperate to flee abuse, and young and old trying to break free from addiction. The collective needs are so great that we as a society seemingly have tuned out and gone shopping, or into the ether of the Internet or entertainment to escape our own humanity
With silent cries, the newts are right there, just as the needs before us are right there. All they seem to ask is that we care.
Posted: to Poor Richie's Almanac on Tue, Sep 3, 2019
Updated: Sun, May 29, 2022