My roommate came to find me earlier this week to say there was a snake at the back door. She was heading to our tiny patio there as the dryer is across it, in the former garage. I was immediately intrigued – A Snake! I grew up in Jersey where about the worst predator was a crab scuttling at you sideways on the beach. Or a jellyfish alert from the lifeguard on duty. So, a snake was a teaser I couldn’t miss.
Just outside the swinging back doors, like an inch outside, was a small grass snake lying quietly. I got the feeling he (for the sake of not knowing how to sex snakes), was waiting politely for an invite into our (only slightly) warmer back room. Or maybe he had heard about the latest mouse in the pantry (our third in as many months.) I told G. I’d be right back & zipped to the fireplace for the shovel. I scooped the snake up on it & winged it outward – attempting to deposit it upon the bordering back ledges in the yard.
I have unerring, almost Freudian aim when I throw things. I once hit our cat in a tree she used to climb, far to the left of our house in Cherry Hill. I was aiming the tennis ball at the roof – a pretty broad target, kind of like the side of a barn. I threw a curve ball that bounced on the branch where she was often adventured. I have no idea how I did that, to this very day. I even threw left-handed…which is how I play Skee Ball, tho I’m really a right-hand gal. (As to why I was tossing tennis balls on the roof, if you’ve ever tried to exhaust a Golden Retriever puppy, rolling balls off the roof sometimes works & may also contribute to an understanding of why Jitters was in the tree.)
I have thrown pebbles into car windows accidentally (windows open only a couple of inches) when I wasn’t aiming anywhere near the car. I’ve thrown shoes or sock balls or any number of things during a long life of playing with pets. I’ve rarely landed any item near where I aimed. In fact, it was almost legendary that when I picked anything up & “rared back” with it, an alarm sounded over town & all ran for cover. I am not embarrassed to say I never hit anything in my sights – but what I did manage to clobber proved pretty damned funny over the years.
So, as you can see by the photo above, I missed the back ledges because there was a black walnut in the middle of the yard & I managed to wrap that poor, cold, stunned snake around a branch of it. I think he did a pretty good job catching on, myself. And there was only one thing taller than me in the area, which was the tree. But, really, what are the odds? He hung out there long enough for me to grab a couple of snaps with my phone to send to friends.
Two of these returned the email with an identical question & comment: “Snake is Messenger. Did you ask it for a message? Hmmmm.” And my abashed answer was “nope” because while I know much about animal totems & their meanings, I haven’t encountered Snake before. So I’ve not consulted the animal totem books for this particular reference.
Well, it made me wonder what the encounter may have been about. Aside from a passing thought, “If I were Eve, we’d need a very small fruit here, like maybe a cherry tomato,” I didn’t think about a message at all.
Two days later, an even smaller grass snake was “ssss-ing” its way across the front entry hall by the door. (If you’ve ever seen a snake moving along, it makes an “s” out of its body & somehow accordions from one place to the next.) This guy wasn’t cold; wasn’t slow; but was a little confused about being indoors, I think. My two shopping carryalls were right there, along with our Maglite. It was about 11 in the morning of a beautifully sunny day, the Saltillo tile steps outside were warm, dry & easily climbed. The screen door had a 1” bend in the frame along the bottom & all of this contributed to his entry. Plus, we have not yet caught the mouse who is dining on Ramen Beef soup packets every evening. And leaving mouse poops in trails … necessitating wiping out the pantry frequently. (While snakes “s” along, mice poop along. I think, like old cars that go putt putt putt, they go poop poop poop.) What did I say in a very recent blog about shit happens, but that doesn’t make it decorative? Gotta be more careful here!)
I ran for the trusty fireplace shovel, but this guy wasn’t into hanging around to be shoveled out & I will say I backtracked quickly when it slithered at my flip-flopped feet. But touching it with the shovel brought on a quick u-turn which I was able to exploit by lifting the bags it hid under & touching it once more when it curled up next to the Maglite. I guess snakes have second thoughts & the better part of finding a warmer nest turned into essss-cape out that inch of exposure. One more touch to its tail-end sent it to gone. It was a relief not to have to try to scoop up a fast-moving skinny little guy for a toss out the door. This is likely a good thing as I didn’t land it on any neighbors walking their dogs nearby – a real risk given my targeting handicap.
My roommate was only slightly more freaked this time around, when I told her. She said, “I’ve never had snakes near the house! What is going on here!?”
And then I remembered I should have asked this one about a message – take two & I was gripping the shovel, clueless to cues. I looked wistfully out the door & around the rain barrel, just in case Snake had hung out to fulfill its mystical duty. But sadly, it was not around; tho I admit I didn’t look too hard. I think I am getting messages differently these days, like email & by phone. Just not used to natural Western Union.
Snakes also are about transformation since their highlight is shedding skin. But I’m still me, still can’t throw worth a hoot (evidenced shortly after this by tossing my flipflops in my room & one landing on the bed, one landing under it.)
What could it have been, this message? “Aim better in life?” “Don’t mess with fireplace shovels?!” “If you ever trap the mouse, we’ll be out here?” “Not today, but in a couple of days, you’ll be up at 2 a.m. writing blogs about us?”
I will never really know.
But I’m ready for #3 now! Just hope they don’t send a rattler as an exclamation point!
Every day I carefully sift through my closet to put together an outfit that’s coordinated, spiffy & “interesting.” I sigh about being on old lady, but I dress it up anyway. I fix my hair (wear it front or back?), I dress for the weather (long sleeves in New Mexico can be too much at any given time, even midwinter, given our 360 days of sunshine), I select footwear: shoes or can I still get away with sandals? I dig out makeup (a bit of eyeliner to paint under the epicanthic folds gravity is kindly manifesting for me), I bring in the magic 10x mirror & sit it in front of the light-filled window & pick at the salt n pepper facial hairs determinedly darkening my complexion (oh to be fair! But then, I never was in this lifetime.) I defuzz by degrees after the initial shudder at the ever-visible moustache line.
I tried whitening my teeth & that worked pretty well, tho expensive & sensitizing to gums. I try to walk each day after stretching out on the yoga mat through a warm-up routine tho I never quite get to full count on anything abdominal. I use three-pound hand weights when I walk – got biceps? I do! But who sees these? I can’t walk around all day flexing like some gym rat checking the bod in a hundred mirrors. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to, though. This is my first time in life with real biceps, after all.
From a distance, I look pretty good. It’s only up close & when I smile that you see the parentheses of wrinkles crinkling everywhere. My throat has a kind of sun-ray pattern to it which I find interesting, but which keeps me from wearing necklaces I once loved, as I don’t want to call attention there. And as I smile & the wrinkles appear & the collagen-depleted skin rearranges, guess what emerges from the little valleys between the crinkles, like some 3D kiddie pop-up book? More hairs.
I have read that hearing is the last sense to go in the body. But I have news for you – it’s Vanity. What’s the last thing done to the body? The undertaker puts make-up on you! Right? And as we age, our ears begin to once more grow (they also [OMG] clump bunches of hair). Our noses become visible from space. Our triceps assume the consistency of slackly drooping clotheslines. Our necks crepe up, our eyebrows figure it’s time to finally meet one another across the nose bridge…on & on. We should probably light candles to the great god Gravity, but Gravity, having brushed every appendages down in a bland assurance that nothing is where it started, has left the building & is out somewhere holding down trees & cars & waiting for apples to fall.
I see my mother’s hands when I look down at them typing. I see my Mom’s hair, the little waves all about. She used to put a touch of olive oil in hers for shine & control. I use a kind of sticky power-gel in a vain attempt at total control. We lived by the ocean & beach hair is a phenomenon of itself. Before I left Delaware, I started seeing t-shirts saying “Beach Hair, Don’t Care!” so I know it’s not a private matter any longer. Now it’s advertising.
So, after all is said & done, all the zipping up & pulling down, all the blow drying & insertion of earrings, the careful selections & accoutrements of fashionable accessories, I make sure I stand far enough back from the mirror that the details blur out a bit. I tell myself, “Just look at how beautiful you are!” And I walk, loose-limbed, straight-backed, smiling my face into its road map & head out. Today I wore a mostly red tie-dye shirt, a red hoodie vest, a red & purple scarf, carried a flowered Laura Ashley bag & wore lipstick. It paid off!
In the Wal-Mart, as I headed for the SmartPop white cheddar mini-bags – my latest sugar avoidance go-to (tho to an Italian, cheddar roughly equals chocolate) – I heard a voice behind me say, “I love your clothes!” And I turned, beaming, to the four-year-old fella holding to granma’s shopping cart to say, “Thank you, dear!”