By Elana Margot Santana
YESTERDAY I FOUND A SALAMANDER resting or dying in my garden. Translucent blood red skin with yellow speckles, big black bulging eyes, a little hairless and scaleless alien, motionless in front of me. “Do you need my help?” I asked. Then I googled how to intervene when you find a slippery-skin creature who appears to need your help. Fresh un-chlorinated water, it said. I found rainwater pooled in a leaf and poured it over the skin that looked so thirsty. The salamander began to pant or drink perhaps. Earthworms are a food source, it said, so I dug into the earth and accidentally beheaded a baby worm with my shovel. I apologized as I rinsed the earthworm head and tail in the leaf water and then presented it to the salamander. Not interested. Twenty minutes later, the decapitated worm head was still moving, still searching for earth or body or both. I wonder if it recognized that it was no longer whole. The salamander kept still, its tiny webbed hands pressing into stone. Its skin was like the skin of a premature human baby. Its tail was startlingly long. Later that same day the salamander and worm pieces were gone. I die and I am born new in encounters like this one. I shrink and I grow vast. I am composed and decomposed. Living is a body pressing into other bodies, both big and small. Bodies with tails, wings, roots, whiskers, veins, blood, stems, leaves, exoskeletons, petals, hair, fur, and antennae. Every texture, and every color you can imagine and some you cannot. What advice do I have for the living? Attend to every scale of intimacy the world offers you. You are not in this world, you are of it, the big and the small. Offer yourself lovingly.
Elana Margot Santana
Elana Margot Santana is a writer, scholar, and visual artist living in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado. Her writing has been featured in numerous publications including the Longridge Review, Undercurrents: Journal of Critical Environmental Studies, and in a forthcoming anthology entitled, Nonhuman Animals, Climate Crisis, and the Role of Literature. She explores experiences of grief, the body, egolessness, childhood subjectivity, animality, and queerness through experimental memoir and creative non-fiction writing. She is currently a graduate student at Naropa University.