“Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems.”
Nature is, of course, the essence, the greatest example of creativity. I was reminded of that when we were cleaning out the old pool. A huge hemlock had fallen into it during Hurricane Sandy. Marshall had sawn up a few of the logs, but some of the tree was buried in snow and he couldn’t get to it. Things were no easier come spring, when the drain had clogged with gunk and the water was chest high, the tree half submerged, still.
We rented a water pump at True Value. It was a solid little workhorse with three inch suction and discharge hoses. They said that it didn’t matter if you had the machine on the edge of the pool and stuck the suction hose vertically down. Oh but it did matter. The engine had to work too hard to pull the water up, and we got only the most pitiful trickle of water for our trouble.
That night Marshall downloaded Honda’s instructions, which said to have the suction hose as horizontal as possible. The next morning, we put the pump in the pool, at the dry end, and soon had water gushing out.
As the water receded, we noticed blobs of jelly with little black dots in them lying on the leaf debris in the pool, and one suspended improbably on a hemlock branch. I carefully collected them in a bucket, added some water and put it aside.
After about five hours of pumping, the pool was almost dry. I started raking up the old leaf muck and found the most beautiful black salamanders with yellow spots hunkered down under the leaves—fifteen of them in a ten foot stretch of muck. I carefully put them into another bucket and brought them to the little stream that fed the pool. I put them in a mound of leaves right by the water.
When I brought the pump back to True Value, I started talking with a woman who seemed to know a lot about spotted salamanders. They need to be in a vernal pool, i.e., no fish to prey upon them. They lay their eggs and then burrow down beneath the leaves; in fact their other name is mole salamanders. They can live to be 32 years old and usually return to the same vernal pool to lay their eggs every year.
Now we have to find a good vernal pool to hatch these eggs. The upper pool that feeds the swimming pool is going to be dredged, since it’s filled with silt over the years. But only one side can be reached with the backhoe. So they’ll be placed carefully on the other side.
It’s a nail-biter. I want all 500 (or so) to thrive and live rich lives--to the age of 32, at least. But not all of them will—and I hope my intrusions have not doomed them.
I’m rewriting my novel, current working title, Please Love Your Life. It’s mostly cutting right now; Amy Hempel’s advice is good—cut out the boring parts. I go through cycles of worry and delight, trying to keep some equanimity in the process.
Every inspiration is a surprise, like those eggs, dangling from hemlock branches. I try to do right by them; sometimes it works. What I learn from nature is to keep trying, with the same wild hope every time.