|Looking out at the yard around our house, you would never guess we had reached the end of the Pagosa summer. The green lawn, the flourishing wild grasses on the hillside, show no sign of the typical "dry and brown" look we usually see at the end of August. And, apparently, the wet summer of 2006 has also made environmental changes to my basement.|
I was knocking around looking for some finish nails last week, and noticed that the basement floor had damp patches here and there. In one corner, a tiny river delta of mud had appeared, showing signs that we'd even had running water in the basement at one point. I decided to take a closer look to make sure there hadn't been any structural damage to our 100-year-old dirt basement.
A tiny movement caught my eye. Something small and black ducked under a piece of plywood under the stairs, moving quickly, but not as quickly as a lizard or a snake. I lifted a corner of the old plywood plank and found a salamander, the first I had ever seen in Pagosa Springs. He (or she?) was black with grey stripes on his sides, about four inches long, and he seemed a bit uncomfortable being the center of attention. I lowered the plywood and went to look for a plastic bucket to scoop him up; I suspected that he might be happier living somewhere else, once the basement dried up. I turned on the light in the root cellar and there, in the middle of the room, stood a second black salamander, looking at me with a confused expression. Continued...
I gathered the two intruders into a bucket and brought them out into the back yard, where Clarissa was weeding in the garden. "Guess what I found," I said, inviting her to peek into the bucket. "Salamanders."
Like the salamanders, Clarissa was somewhat shy about forming a close relationship right off the bat, but she did volunteer to snap a couple of photos before I turned the little creatures loose down by the creek. We let them swim in our water fountain to clean off the dust from the bucket. Then I carried them down and plopped them on the sandy bank near the culvert that runs under Fifth Street. They lay very still for a long time. I began to wonder if they were alive. I touched their tails and they both started to moved very slowly through the sand, headed for the clear water of the creek.
As I walked back home, around the corner, I wondered about the changes that Pagosa has been going through, all the new businesses and second-home owners moving in. Big changes to our little town. And now this: salamanders moving in as well. What's the world coming to.