A Second Chance For a Frozen Heart

Meditations in Motion

I passed some picturesque farm fields and tractors on one of my runs last week. It was the kind of November day that stirs up emotions, windy and partly cloudy. Weather like this makes me want to stand on top of a hill, look around at the countryside and fill my lungs with the brisk air in the hopes it will stir something in me as it twirls the leaves and corn husks above the meadows.

Near the end of my run, I passed one of the small spring-fed streams that are so common in our limestone-riddled area and a movement I saw out of the corner of my eye made me want to stop and investigate, so I hit the pause button on my watch and walked over.

Meditations in Motion

As is often the case, what I was looking for and what I found were two different things. The motion that caught my attention came from a chipmunk scurrying around in the tall grass. As I watched him, he sat up on his hind legs and looked me right in the eye for what seemed like a lifetime, but was really probably closer to 30 seconds. He blinked, turned tail, and dove for the safety of his burrow under a rotting log near the brook.

As I followed the path to his escape, I found something much more interesting. A salamander.


Meditations in Motion
Photo by Todd Pierson via Flickr


We recently had our first frost, one week into November and four weeks later than the typical first frost. Nights have been chilly, but some of the days are still warm and sunny, like the day before my run. This salamander, a Red-backed (Plethodon cinereus), was frozen solid. I picked it up and turned it over in my hands.

This particular salamander must have come out to hunt for pillbugs and spiders yesterday during the warm spell, stayed too long, and got caught out in the open without shelter, unable to move as the temperature plummeted.

I have warmed up seemingly frozen salamanders before, but none that had obviously been frozen as long as this little guy, nevertheless, I decided to give it a try and held him gently between my warm hands.

In less than five minutes, I began to feel some weak motion from the salamander. I breathed some warm breath into my hands and felt the movement increase. When the amphibian was completely thawed out, I put him back down near some rocks in the grass, and he quickly skittered under one, seemingly no worse for wear from his chilly ordeal.

I have seen videos of “grateful” fish coming back and nuzzling the hands of people who have released them into the waters of their native habitat, almost like they are saying “Thank you“. I had visions of my little salamander popping his head out and thanking me, but he didn’t, so I stepped back onto the path and continued my run.

As I ran, I thought about the salamander. What are the chances that someone would be passing by the spot where he lay, frozen in the grass, especially someone with a little amphibian knowledge? What if I had ignored the chipmunk and kept running? The little salamander would doubtlessly have frozen to death, beyond the possibility of revival.

The fact that life is a dicey proposition here on Earth is undeniable. It’s the same for salamanders and humans. Life is all so improbable, and yet. And yet, here we, so incontrovertibly, are.

Meditations in Motion

A new study reported in Discover magazine by astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson posits that there are 700 quintillion (that is a 7 with 20 zeros after it) planets in the universe, but there is only one like Earth, a statistical anomaly. The planets predicted to exist elsewhere are the wrong size, composition, or distance from a star to support life.

According to Zackrisson’s theory, we may be alone in the cosmos after all. Earth is unique. It is literally one in 700 quintillion. This theory reverses a trend that began over 500 years ago when Copernicus stated that Earth is not the center of the universe. Ever since then scientists have been diminishing Earth’s singularity. Zackrisson suggests that the Earth, indeed, may be the center of life in the universe.

Meditations in Motion

For some reason, not of our own making, we have the incredible gift of life, as unlikely as that may be. We are that lucky. That blessed. We live in a world that teems with life, abundant and in a myriad of forms. A world that contains chipmunks and salamanders; one where the autumn leaves swirl around us on a windy November day like sparks from a holy fire and second chances do exist to unthaw frozen hearts.

After my run, I went to the top of the small hill that we live on, I filled my lungs with the bracing air, and gave thanks. Thanks for everything. The beautiful green Earth, the heartbreaking blue sky, how fortunate I am to be living, and a God who knows just how exceptional it all is.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1.


I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Crystal Twaddell for Fresh Market Friday, Spiritual Sundays for Welcome, Embracing the Unexpected for Grace and Truth, The Blended Blog for Friday Loves, Counting My Blessings for Faith β€˜n Friends, Peabea Photography for Sunday Scripture Blessings, A Spirit of Simplicity for Selah, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday, Shank You Very Much for Global Blogging, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Mary-andering Creatively for LMM, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, blovedboston for Weekending, Nanahood.com, and Just a Second for Scripture and a Snapshot.





  1. Great story. I think it is amazing that there is only one planet like earth!
    I dont know if I’ve ever seen a salamander and to be honest thought they were only found in the South ( goes to show how much I know..haha). However I do have a soft spot for chipmunks ( we call them chippies), after having saved one from in our swimming pool a few years back. Everytime we see one in our back yard my husband says ” I wonder if that’s the one you saved”! Thanks for linking up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whether we are alone in the universe or not, we miss the whole point of our existence if we don’t stop from time to time to register the miracle of it all (and to warm up the occasional chilly salamander). LOVE this post — I have been remiss in commenting on your past few, due to schedule overwhelm, but I always appreciate them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think we often find ourselves in places where we can choose to make a difference, or not. You chose to make a difference in the life of that salamander, and in doing so, you blessed both it’s world and ours! Thank you for your daily random acts of kindness! They are so needed in the world! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How cool, I really like that you were able to stop and appreciate things that many of us wouldn’t. Like the old tractor. Its the little things that make our runs more than just exercise but a part of the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed this post Laurie – I learned something about salamanders. I did not know you could revive them if they were cold and frozen like that, just by placing them between your hands – what a thoughtful gesture you did and the salamander got his life back thanks to you. I have never seen a chipmunk – doesn’t that seem amazing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It IS amazing that you have never seen a chipmunk! I would think they are in the park you walk in. I used to do a little amphibian/reptile research for a Pennsylvania university, so I know a little bit about them. As long as no ice crystals form, they can be revived.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is amazing – I wondered how you knew that info and figured maybe you had a pet at one time. Nope, I have never seen a chipmunk – perhaps they are not around in the city, but a friend of mine has a cottage in Northern Michigan and posted a picture on Facebook of a chipmunk, and I remarked how cute it was. So she replied that the chipmunks get into everything and chew things. My boss had a fax machine at home for years because, as a management labor lawyer, many workplace issues cropped up after hours. This was before e-mail and PDFs were commonplace. He had to have AT&T in twice because squirrels chewed the fax lines and the fax machine wouldn’t work then. Finally they had to bury the lines underground and put a decorative pot over top to deter the squirrels. πŸ™‚

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      • Wow! I never realized they were so destructive. I have to tell you, my father-in-law is in a constant battle with the squirrels in his yard. He would never hurt one, but he goes to great lengths to chase them off of his property! πŸ™‚

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      • Yes, I guess they are bad and not cute when they are destructive. My grandmother got squirrels in her attic. She lived in Toronto and all the two-story houses were attached. They could hear their neighbors talking in certain rooms of the house (upstairs bedrooms and bathroom I think). Many of Toronto’s houses were built like this back in the day. In all the years she lived there, she never had bugs from being “on top of her neighbors” but squirrels got in one attic then chewed through somehow and got in her attic and did a lot of damage.

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  6. Erik Zackrisson’s theory seems to be a giant leap of faith. Perhaps earth is the only planet exactly like earth, but I can’t believe it’s the only planet with sentient life. I’m an oddity. An agnostic who believes in intelligent design. But I also believe that evolution is part of that design. The designers? Intelligent life from other civilizations. I’m looking forward to reading Zackrisson’s Discovery article. This topic excites me as much as anything else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you like the article, Jeff. I am the opposite of you in these matters. I believe in God and evolution. I am a chemist by training who found her true vocation teaching chemistry. I can remember a lot of discussion early in my career about the “evolution vs. intelligent design” debate. I even went to a lecture at Elizabethtown college where the speaker likened the probability of evolution creating something as something as complex as an eyeball to a 747 being assembled by a whirlwind randomly blowing all the pieces together. You only have to look at a snowflake, though, to realize that some pretty complex things can self-assemble in nature!

      Liked by 2 people

      • So, ultimately, I think Zackrisson is forming his theory with extremely limited data. He’s taking what we know about a handful of planets within our galaxy and extrapolating it to the whole universe. I feel that *if* it’s possible for evolution to create a 747 out of a whilrlwind once, the probability is, given a zillion chances, that it happened more than once. Likewise, if God or aliens set the wheels in motion, wouldn’t they do it more than once to hedge their bet. I didn’t know that Salamanders worked like that. As a young teen, we used to freeze bumblebees in the summertime and then put them in the sun to thaw out and fly away.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Salamanders are cold-blooded and have a compound like antifreeze in their blood. I have unfrozen them before. In the fall and spring, they sometimes get caught out when cold weather hits. They begin moving more and more slowly, and finally are unable to move at all. This one was obviously frozen overnight, though. I thought he was a goner!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re a real life-saver Laurie! πŸ˜‰

    That chipmunk is so cute too!

    I’m with you in the God + evolution camp, but have to point out the flaws in the Elizabethtown’s speaker’s comparison with eyes and 747’s.

    A 747 is a collection of at least a million separate individual components that have been designed separately, some very specifically for the concept of a multi person carrying flying jet powered machine. It was not the first ever aircraft design but took over 60 years of heavier-than-air powered flight evolution to reach such a pinnacle. It did not evolve itself however but had to rely upon many many designers to evolve each successive step.

    This is completely different to the evolution of all living creatures, and their various features such as eyes, which use their own success or failure to meet the conditions of their environment for their survival and ability to breed and so to determine the gradual increase in their complexity and variation. The eye, or any specialist organ, such a our brain, began as a vastly more simple concept and became the incredibly complex and adapted things they are over many millions of years and generations. Complexity, specialisation is rewarded in life by allowing it’s owner to replace it’s competition and reproduce more like itself. πŸ™‚

    As for our unique (to the best of our current knowledge) life-bearing planet: the number of potential planets for other life is indeed unimaginably large, and has increased considerably as more cosmologic discoveries have been made in recent years. This is tempered as you implied by a large number of delicately balanced conditions that have to be met for intelligent life to evolve on one (and to survive self-destruction).

    My personal theory is that God is very much more intelligent than any human is and i do not think that He would make a universe the size of ours and yet only put life on one insignificant little ball of rock. What a massive waste of material and effort for what possible reason? πŸ™‚ It may well be that He ha evolved other life but chooses to keep knowledge of them from us until we have proved we would not destroy them – or vice versa. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the very well-thought-out response to the Elizabethtown speaker. I agree 100% with your statement about evolution “rewarding” complexity and specialization. The complexity of our Earth fascinates me. I may still write a post about complexity in nature.

      I am sure If I was designing life with my limited imagination, the best I could do would be some green slime. I could never come up with an okapi or a giraffe or some of the weird deep sea creatures I have seen on nature documentaries. I think God’s intelligence is beyond my human imagination.

      Good point in your last paragraph. We still have not even proven that we can sustain life on this planet. I am sure God would not want us to wipe out life on OTHER planets! πŸ™‚

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      • I agree completely! πŸ˜‰

        I have an interesting thought though….

        What if God is evolving along with everything else? If God is learning and expanding His intelligence as we are? We are made in His image after all? πŸ™‚

        Humans tend to think of something that is ‘perfect’ as fixed and unchanging; cannot be improved upon, but is that the only case?

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      • It’s interesting huh? It’s also tricky if we consider God is Infinite and Perfect.

        Mathematicians are comfortable with the concepts of ‘Infinite’ infinities or groups of infinities so it may be feasible – but that boggles my tiny brane! πŸ˜‰

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  8. This post is a lovely introduction to you, Laurie. What a beautiful writer you are! And I share your belief that God and evolution are not incongruent. Who are we to limit God’s creativity? I’m a nurse and we have a saying: you’re not dead until you are warm and dead. Hypothermia can mimic death even in humans. What a miracle it was for you to find the salamander and give him a second chance! Symbolic of the chance we have each day to notice someone who needs the warmth of kindness.

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    • Thank you very much for your very kind comment, Molly. My training was in chemistry, but I am a retired school teacher. That little salamander was lucky! I am so glad I got to warm him up and give him another chance at life.

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  9. Interesting post Laurie, sparking an interesting conversation.
    I believe God created us because He desired relationship with us & in that there is no waste of resources as this is our habitat. If we are the sole planet with life in the entire universe then that is what He has designed for His purpose & ours. God does because God can! πŸ˜‰
    He doesn’t have to have a human plausibility to His creation. The infinite does not have to answer to the finite πŸ˜€

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  10. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a salamander nor would know how to revive any little creature of nature, but loved reading about it. Thank you. Wonderful sharing. Also, love those moments when we want to run to the top of anything or just shout thanks. Such special days with those happenings and the closeness of God in our heart. Thank you for sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings and have a great Thanksgiving week.

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  11. Your little salamander friend was very lucky, whether he knows it or not. πŸ˜‰ What a neat story! And yes, how richly God has blessed us! We have so much to be thankful for and should be constantly in awe of what love he has lavished upon us! Thanks for sharing on Scripture and a Snapshot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That little guy (or maybe girl) was unbelievably lucky! We should be in constant praise and thanksgiving to our Creator for His love and care. Thank you for the chance to share! πŸ™‚


  12. Pondering the vastness and the beauty of Creation and all the little workings always makes me feel in “awe” of the Creator. How wonderful and powerful He is and how little I am. You can’t help but to be thankful to the Lord our God. Thank you for the story and the ponderings. πŸ™‚ Also, I had no clue that you could even do that with amphibians. Wow! Thanks for sharing with us at #LiveLifeWell.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well done Laurie – was it chance that you chanced upon these things or was it more that you looked where other cease to look anymore? We live in a world that so many care not for anymore, there is no courtesy extended to fellow humans, and more often than not none awarded to our flora and fauna. People take things for granted, they take life for granted and take the lives of others for granted. Too many these days walk around with their eyes wide shut.

    So well done, and l feel sure that Sal Mander was grateful even if they couldn’t express it.

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    • Thank you for the link, Linda. It was sad to read about the sea turtles getting cold stunned, but I was glad to read that they are being helped on their journey south. My sister lives on Cape Cod for part of the year. I am going to ask her if she ever saw anything like this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome Laurie – I thought of you right away with your lizard story … I guess they could have thrown a net in to catch them and move them to a warmer place, but then they might risk harming the turtles somehow. It will be interesting to know if they will have an evacuation plan for the turtles going forward or if this extreme cold snap this early there was just a fluke. We have painted turtles and snapping turtles at Council Point Park and they bury under the silt at the bottom of the Creek and they hibernate there until late Spring.

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  14. That’s why I wonder why more people don’t believe in God and that we’re here for a reason. For it all to be a fluke and a big bang just seems ridiculously bizarre. So we’re all little frozen skinks in God’s hands – and that’s a lovely thought πŸ™‚

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