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Perspective: The magic of everyday encounters

Jemez Mountain Salamander
FWS
Jemez Mountain Salamander

I pulled my cart up to the check out. A young man with white pines tattooed on his arm slid my milk, rice crisps, beans, eggs, ninety-nine cent fruit across the glass recording prices. “How are you?” I asked.

“Today’s my last day,” he announced.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to work for the Forest Service near Santa Fe. I’ll do multiple jobs like planting trees, working with wildlife, clearing forest.” He explained how the forest had become dry tinder for fires and needed to be cleared. There’s a salamander there, that only comes out when it rains. because it lives in the ground. It’s so rare, the forest service left that area untouched.

According to Wild Earth Guardians, “To protect the Jemez Mountains salamander, one must safeguard the Jemez Mountains—a striking landscape characterized by large tracts of undisturbed wilderness, rocky peaks, and mountain streams.”

Suddenly, this ordinary check-out clerk became a mythic guardian, full of enthusiasm and hope for work he will throw his body into, to make the forest right, to protect a tiny animal, to do good in the world. My heart lifted up as I followed my husband Bruce to our car, hopeful there are many like him, finding work that helps us all.

It’s funny how making small talk with someone you only see for the minutes they spend pricing your groceries, can make a real connection. I wish I’d had my business card handy to suggest we stay in touch.

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

Katie Andraski is an author, blogger, and retired composition teacher at Northern Illinois University. You can read more of her writing on Substack at Katie's Ground.