Monday, November 16, 2009

Help - There's a naked snake in my garden, and baby, it's cold outside!

Shades of Adam and Eve - a snake is coiled somewhere in my garden shivering! I suppose I should regard the neatly discarded rattlesnake skin outside my gate last week as a gift - but we're dealing with a seriously paranoid woman here when the word "snake" is hissed. Now all I can think is that it's out there, naked, lurking, and as the evenings get colder, looking for an opportunity to slip into something comfortable and coil up inside.

I spent a lot of my growing up years in parts of the world where snakes and nasty insects were common and dangerous. I developed an irrational fear that persists to this day. I'm probably the only woman I know who routinely shakes out shoes before putting them on. So the snakeskin combined with a scorpion sighting and stomping has left me wary. My son-in-law has just called to tell me there are two young Bobcats in his driveway - now that's an incursion I encourage.

Living in the desert is a privilege and one that I treasure but on occasion the up-close with nature thing gives me the creeps. Years ago, in a house I was remodeling, I wandered into my bathroom, barefoot, bare everything actually and horrors - a small coral and black snake slithered behind the toilet. Common sense told me it could be either a coral or a king snake - one poisonous, the other friendly. I took no chances. I summonsed my daughter. "There's a snake in the bathroom," I told her - quite calmly I thought. "Get it!".

She sauntered in past me, a broom and dustpan in hand, as I huddled on the bed. She sauntered out again equally casually pausing only to say, "It's OK, it's a baby, I'll drop it over the wall."
Whew - raised her well, I thought and snuggled into bed with a good book. She appeared in my doorway. "You know, Mom, where there's a baby, there's a mother and since snakes mate for life, parents are probably in here waiting for you."

When my middle boy was around eight, he stomped into the kitchen one morning demanding , "Where are my green shorts".
"In the dryer"
"Oh, no. Mom you washed Walter".

Walter, it transpired, was a small snake he'd put in his pocket following an early morning desert foray. We never did find Walter, neither in the washer nor dryer. Needless to say, until we sold that house, I looked everywhere for that snake, imagining him lurking, growing into anaconda proportions, thriving in the water pipes.

For several years we had a ranch way out - I was talking to the FBI on the phone one day, (it's a really long story - but no, I am not in the witness protection program) when I saw my fearless cat, Samantha, on the step about to swipe at a rattler - I shrieked, dropped the phone, grabbed the cat and slammed the door. I forgot to hang-up. About two hours later a siren broke the peace and a sheriff's truck screeched to a halt in front of the house - before I could get outside, two officers with guns drawn, hurtled into combat action and raced toward the door. That one was really embarrassing.

I finally wondered if I should turn in my "mother" badge following my most shameful snake episode. This time a very real, very large and very angry rattler (the resident terrier had taken it on) was coiled in strike position on the patio. I called Rural Metro Fire Department - they offer critter removal service - and as soon as I called, locked myself in a closet. Fire engine and firemen arrived; my three children answered the door. "Where's your Mom?", the fireman asked. "Hiding in the closet," my six-year old replied. My ruin was complete.

Off to close the doors, check the screens and go on-line to find a Mongoose or two - maybe I'll find one in Connections Shopping Deals!

Perverse of me, perhaps - this poem has been a favorite for years.


by D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

A snake came to my water trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pajamas for the heat,
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the
edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into
that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in
undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.
me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

1 comment:

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