Grandma’s cellar was a magical place, if you could get past the salamanders. The dug-out was originally built as a storm shelter in the 1930’s, containing no concrete, just plank-braced dirt. I loved it because it was the only location on the farm offering a refreshing escape from the summer’s heat.
The moist, dampness of the cellar had an ethereal quality unlike anything above-ground. Mama told me that it stayed the same temperature down there year round, no matter what the weather was like up top. Granddaddy had built study shelves that drooped every so slightly under the weight of Grandma’s pickles, preserves, and canned peaches. All the overflow of her garden was laid to rest here in this cool crypt.
Because we often experienced tornado scares, the shelter was lined with chairs, benches and an antique oil lantern, just in case. I didn’t worry about the storms. For me, Grandma’s cellar was the perfect place to play house. I worried about the salamanders.
Daddy called them “water dogs” for some reason, but their affectionate puppy name didn’t fool me. Lighting fast, these newts slithered across my foot on more than one occasion. Their beady eyes stood sentry on the wooden steps into the cellar, separating me from a childhood wonderland. Although harmless in the mind of every adult, salamanders kept me out of the cellar all too often.
I still have salamanders in my life. Now, they are in the form of distractions. Even as I prepare to go into the cool, quietness of time with my heavenly Father, the beady eyes of a million “ought-to’s” drawn my attention away from rest. The thoughts in themselves are harmless, but without firm resolve, preoccupation keeps me from ascending the heights.
“Father, help me to recognize distractions for what they are — useless diversions to keep me away from You. I desire the peace and plentitude that we have together, You and I. But often I have far too much on my mind to abide. Thank You for reminding me that You are greater than the distractions of the world (1 John 4:4). I faithe You to be my overcoming strength (1 John 5:4). In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”