Red efts, the eastern newt—they are a kid’s dream come true, so small and touchable, and their tangerine color so outlandish in a world dedicated to camouflage. No teeth, no fangs, claws, or quills. They are damp but not slimy, and it looks like they are smirking as if the joke’s on you.
They are toxic to ingest but not to touch, and they don’t squirt slime in your hand or spray a stench. Anybody can find them without much searching. They are bold, standing on top of mushrooms, climbing up rotting logs, their bright color announcing their presence—quiet salamander, a brazen joy.
Just yesterday, it rained here in Hancock, NH. I wandered up the road moving salamanders from one side of the road to the other and remembering how my daughter and I would slip on our yellow slickers and rainboots and into the rain we splashed. She’d find a red eft and scoop it up.
Holding it right up to her face, she’d gently press it against her cheek. She knew what to do. She’d carefully carry it across the dirt road, away from danger. I’d watch her pick out a place to put the salamander, a mossy log, a nook at the base of a tree, under a fern. She’d lean down, and I’d watch her kiss each red eft before setting them free.
This rainy ritual was just what we did in our family. I did it with my father, and now I’ve done it with my three children. We are rain walkers, salamander fans, doing this tiny bit of good in this wild world we all live in.