Sometime when I open the cottage door rather quickly, the suction draws an unexpected visitor inside. Usually these inadvertent guests, who—as luck would have it—happened to be on the outside of the sill when the door was yanked open, are spiders, or maybe a cricket. The latter are promptly sent packing, while the former are summarily dispatched with malice aforethought—usually with an added two or three broom-whacks as a cautionary deterrent to any eight-legged cronies who might be watching.
Living on the river, however, one comes to expect the unexpected. Sometimes when I open the door, both the victim and I are startled. For example, I would never have expected to accidentally suck in a salamander. And when I looked down at the wriggling creature frantically scrambling across the wood entryway floor, it was apparent the little amphibian had been equally discombobulated. I hastily but gently corralled and captured the would-be escapee and, grabbing a camera, carried it outside for a quick portrait.
Salamanders come in a wide array of sizes and colors, though unless you actually go out in search of them—and know where and when to look for a particular species—you're not likely to encounter even a single animal during the entire year. Ohio has about 30 different salamanders—and in my years of rambling, I doubt if I've seen more than half that number of species. Salamanders are secretive, and with only an exception or two, smaller than most folks realize.
But they're also quite lovely, I think—delicate little creatures, often beautifully colored and marked. My doorway visitor was a red-backed salamander, one of the more common of the woodland species. It had probably been moving from the mulch and leaf detritus of the big planting bed which runs the length of the cottage to a more sheltered wintering site under the deck.
After admiring my squirming neighbor for a few moments, I placed him at the edge of the planting bed and the deck, close to a few sheltering stones…and wished him luck through the months ahead. Life on the river is never boring.