Salamander Poetics & Frustrations

In this two-parted blog post, I make an attempt to capture the poetic aspect of tuning-in to the salamander migration, and then follow that with an essay conveying my frustration at being unable to get great video footage, and the impact of that frustration on keeping the dream alive:


Salamander Frustrations - featured imageSometimes it is easy to kiss the earth, especially during the spring of the year. Humans everywhere experience the joy and renewal of the great unfolding, when flowers explode upon the scene and bird song greets the day. The earth calls out in color and sound, demanding our attention and praise.

The Spotted Salamander migration, however, encourages a deeper communion, an immersion in the chilling wetness of the night, an appreciation of a silent yet extraordinary primeval dance that is easily overlooked. To experience it requires a refined attunement, a cultivated anticipation, an irrepressible willingness to wade into the muck to touch the primal source.

I am certainly uplifted by the songs of birds and the colorful flowers, but the salamander migration digs deeper into my soul. It ignites my spirit with a special kind of creative fire. It is a uniquely remarkable natural event – a sudden expression of earthbound creatures that rise out of the soiled depths, and then march overland to vernal pools to partake in the love dance that insures the survival of their kind.

If you want to feel connected to the earth, then follow the salamander trail. Get down on your hands and knees, wade into the muck, and experience for yourself this secretive amphibious rite of spring … you will not be disappointed.

© Lang Elliott, 7 April 2014



portrait of Lang Elliott among maple leavesLast night, I chased after salamanders until the wee hours of the morning. I was looking for the “ultimate vernal pool,” with crystal-clear water and the mother of all salamander tangles. I ran here and there, back and forth, from this pool to that pool, until I collapsed from exhaustion at 5am. I never found the ultimate pool and I didn’t get any good video footage at all. Nada! Nothing good at all!

On a positive note, I saw LOTS of salamanders, mostly spotties, ambling through the forest or partially hidden under leaves in pools. I even found two mating congresses, but both dispersed before I was able to get my video equipment set up. When my adventure finally came to end, I had little to show for it, at least in terms of high-quality media fit to share with the world.

This left me frustrated … not only was I skunked by the salamanders, but the ordeal put to test my faith in my dream.

So … let me briefly share my frustrations with you. Let me share my personal challenge of trying to keep the Miracle of Nature idea alive in my mind, as the realities and limitations of earthly endeavors inevitably take their toll.

So many questions roll about in my mind. Will I be able to pull this off? Will I be able to create a viable and sustainable non-profit that has clear goals and a unique identity and footprint? Will I be able to collect and publish enough compelling content that I’m able to demonstrate the overall idea (= the dream) and show how powerfully it conveys the miraculous quality of the natural world?

Furthermore, will I be able to raise enough money to make it work? Right now, I’m basically paying for it all, which is un-sustainable. We’ve had a few small voluntary donations, but that doesn’t turn the wheel. Admittedly, I’ve never done any fundraising … so is it realistic to expect I can draw-in enough money to make our goals possible to reach?

As director of Miracle of Nature, I am wearing many hats. I’m visioning, content-collecting, writing, designing, and publishing. I’m the web master, the financier, and the accountant … you name it … that’s me! Aside from the generous help Wil Hershberger, Beth Bannister, and a few others, it is a one-man-show. If something were to happen to me now, I suspect Miracle of Nature would quickly go down the drain. So let’s hope I’m around long enough to birth this Miracle into existence, with a clear vision, paid staff, and a solid future.

Spiritually-speaking, Miracle of Nature appears to be my calling, my most important “work in the world.” For better or for worse, I’m married to the idea of it, to the dream of birthing it as a non-profit, and I am committed to giving it my all.

Lang Elliott, Director
Miracle of Nature
8 April 2014


  1. You have done such a classy job with your site, Lang. And your videos and recordings are exquisite. I come to your site b/c I know I will find something that will touch my heart, whether a water serenade, beautiful high definition film, and even your own words. I am a nature near at hand lover as well–I trail run a lot, and always have to pause to snap a photo or look at a tortoise or sunset. I try to remind my friends that nature and beauty is everywhere….if you go slow and look from many angles. In your site, I feel like I’m in a place where someone understands me! Thanks for sharing the honest words about your frustrations. I’m in the nonprofit world as well (bird conservation) and switch between many hats. While a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign may be good…they take a LOT of time. That’s a job for a summer intern. You have such a solid and delightful site and cause, I could easily see an enthusiastic, nature-loving college student maybe with a background in nonprofit management filling that role. Well, just my two cents. Please keep dreaming and mucking through muck (figuratively and literally!). Your site is the most genuine and peaceful little heaven I’ve ever come across on the web.

  2. As someone who has followed your work over the years, your unique ability to bring the sights and sounds of nature to the masses in a way that seems more like art than anything else is something that keeps me coming back…As a Ranger, I often use your books and audio as educational tools and I’m certainly glad that I stumbled upon your work (and Wil’s) while listening to NPR many years ago.

    Upward and Onward

  3. Don’t give up Lang! Your passion will carry you and the unlimited beauty you will experience! Look at crowd-funding, encourage people to visit your Facebook page and share your posts, encourage them to visit your web page/blog, etc. The more people you can reach the more doors will open!
    It would not amount to much (maybe) but you can list (at least I think your non-profit would be eligible) MoN on and those who select you as their “charity” — a small percentage of what they purchase will go to your organization.

    You are doing great work! What about selling advertising on your website or blog??
    Blessings to you!

  4. Lang, I love the poetic part of your post, and the frustration sure sounds a lot like the creative process. Artists of all types struggle so much with finding the time, finding the money, finding the materials, finding a chance to sleep, believing that we can create what we imagine…

    Perhaps someone reading this will know how to use tools such as Kickstarter or will have other skills and experience sets they might be able to offer. From everything you’ve written as you’ve undertaken this process, though, it’s absolutely clear that this IS your calling. The Earth – and the Muses – aren’t going to let you go.

  5. Great post Lang. I think that you are feeling the birth-pangs of a grand and glorious child that will grow and flourish to the delight of all that visit and immerse themselves in the experience.

    • Birth pangs for sure. It just seems at times that my vision is not easily doable. Of course, that doesn’t mean I/we still can’t do it … it just won’t be “easy”!

    • yes, crowd-funding is the way, I believe. Both encouraging on-site donations plus working through other crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. But when will I have the time to tackle that? Probably not anytime soon, what with SPRING at our doorstep!

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