On today’s forest walk, I happened upon a mother and her two young kids. I’d seen them a couple times on different parts of the path, always stooped over with the mother explaining fungi on a fallen log or a footprint in the mud. The last time I walked past them was over by the pond, where the little girl was carrying a small green plastic box with something dark inside.

“Whatcha got there?” I asked.

“A sallymander!” the little girl said proudly.

“Where’d you find it?”

“Over there by the pond under a log!”

“What are you going to do with it?”

The girl paused, looked down at the salamander when her mother interjected, “We’re going to return it to the log where it lives.”

The little girl looked up at her mother, then down at the box, and finally saying (but not happily), “Yes, we’re going to put it back in the mud.”

I think the little girl hoped to take it home as a pet, and I’d asked the question hoping for Mom’s answer. Nature’s cool but its denizens belong in nature, not in a home container. Besides, I think salamanders are getting less common, so all the more reason to let it go.

We talked a bit more and I asked how easy it was to find these. “Pretty easy” mom said, as she lifted a few logs on the forest floor, with the second log having the other salamander above.

These particular woods by my house are ones I use for walking, rarely stopping to examine anything. Instead, I’m always moving forward to keep my pace up and hit my distance goals. When I visit other forests, I’m more apt to meander, or sit quietly and listen to nature’s sounds. I’ll often stop to meditate or journal, but there’s always time to stop and explore interesting things.

Today’s stop in the walking routine was a pleasant break, catching sight of a couple of salamanders and two kids excited about nature. A good day, all in all.