I walk out to the pool each morning—the night’s frenzy so foreign, so shrouded.
Hoping to see better, in daylight, what lay hidden last night beyond the beam of my light. The quacking of Wood Frogs and piercing calls of Spring Peepers have gone with the night, though they are still here, replaced now by the raspy voices of Chorus Frogs, tucked away in the stems of plants peeking above the surface at the water’s edge.
With one step, they, too now are quiet.
Last night I stood in the same spot, within this ring of grass, a dense mat covering the bottom of the pool. Easing apart the tangled stems with my toe, careful not to tear into their world like ripping into a prize, I gently step in, and wait, still. Clusters of spermatophores shine as white flecks against the dark floor all around. Though I see nothing, they are here.
Beneath the layers of decaying grasses and leaves, the salamanders are moving.
Nocturnal and soft-bodied, from their world under ground, walking great distances under cover of night, into this water of their birth, they have returned only to breed, and leave.
No scales, no claws, no teeth--
their only defense, the darkness.
I lift my flashlight from the surface, muffling the beam under my jacket, restoring their night.
And soon, they emerge beyond the tip of my boot,
snatching a quick breath at the surface before disappearing into the black again.
The hidden ones in these spring waters.
Because they are often seen as nothing more than low, unattractive, swampy areas, these important habitats are drained or filled, destroying them and the unseen animals that depend on them as breeding grounds.
Studying these areas at night for a few weeks in the spring reveals the vulnerable lives often unnoticed at any other time of year.