Karl Meyer                                                                   August 21, 2008

Lunar cycle

I spotted it, the spotted newt, in the half-dawn, half-moonlight. I wanted to just skip it, forget what I saw, but it had bubbled up into my consciousness that chilly, mid-August morning. It was in the road, alive. It could get squished.

It was a pact I’d made with myself at some distant time: if it’s savable, and you can save it, stop. Reluctantly I slowed, swerved left, circled back and there it was—a foot from the white line. Unmoving. I reached down to gently pinch the burnished red creature by its sides with my seemingly enormous claw. I hesitated just perceptibly, thinking I might harm this tiny sliver of flesh. I followed through, half-expecting a small squirm of anguish that some red efts display. Instead, there was nothing. Just the softest pinch of puffball sides.

I had the little character, and without a fight. But, oddly, something went out of me when I pinched that creature and was met with something more than heavenly softness. Warmth. This fellow traveler conveyed warmth to my bumbly fingertips in the pre-dawn August chill.

It was an abrupt, disarming surprise—like a bucket of water in the face, only opposite. Warmth, softness, giving flesh where it is least expected. Cold pavement, hard road, unflinching full moon about to set.

And this. Red eft. Would-be salamander. Hand warmer to sleepless middle-aged guy. Hi hardly knew what to do. Reflexively I walked it to the edge of the pavement, dumping it, unceremoniously into cold, dew be-dripped crab grass. It landed, half flipped on its side, in the close-clipped blades. Unmoving.

I turned and reset my foot in the toe-clip, slowly regaining the momentum of this flat, pale moon soaked stretch. It registered then, too late, that the little guy had been drawing its warmth from the stored reservoir of the night pavement. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Off balance, that was me—flipping a pavement warmed amphibian into the cold grass and then thinking I was of service.

“I’m way off center,” I remember thinking as I rode south past perfect rows of corn—the setting moon to my right, the orb of an August dawn to my left.