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A snake in my garden

As if the symbolism couldn’t get any worse…


This is kind of a joke with some of my peers: My first novella, Home and Garden, is about an attempt to heal a broken marriage by planting a garden. Is it a kind of post-modern Adam and Eve? Am I trying to tap into religious symbolism? I can’t say for sure that this wasn’t somewhere in my mind as I came up with the story, but it wasn’t a conscious and planned act. How does fiction bubble up, or percolate down? I don’t know. I just know that I feel like I’m supposed to write it. Here’s a semi-explanation: My mom and dad garden a lot; it’s a great way for them to reconnect and return to a balanced state. I like the idea of planting seeds and then harvesting fruits of labor. In that way, there’s a lot of connections to writing and teaching. My experience with that was more inspiration for me than the Bible.

But today, while planting some hydrangeas for mother’s day, I noticed something abnormal sticking out of a crack in the base of the pine tree at the foot of the garden. Turns out it was a snake. My first reaction was to jump, like most people do. This is hard-wired into us from our caveman days. But then the logical part of my brain kicked in and I reminded myself that most snakes are not venomous, especially snakes on land. The snake had pulled its head back inside the hollow of the tree when I was startled, but after waiting for a minute, it popped its head back out and started to smell the air with its tongue. Over time, it pushed out three inches or so–enough for me to see the beginnings of black stripes. After waiting longer, I came to the conclusion that it was probably more scared of me than I of it, and therefore was not going to do much more while I was standing there. So I went inside to grab my camera and do some quick research on www.snakesandfrogs.com, which is a great website that I’ve used before.

When I came back outside, I peered into the crack in the pine and was disappointed to see no sign of the snake. Well, maybe it came out, I thought. And then not two feet away from me, I saw it laying along the border of the garden. Near-heart attack number 2.

I snapped as many photos as I could, but it turned back to the tree pretty fast and went back to the crack. Fully extended, I gauged it to be at least three feet long. Here’s a picture:

My guess is that this is an Eastern Yellow Rat Snake, which is a non-venomous constrictor. Rat snakes eat mice and things that might mess with my garden, so actually, I’d be pretty thrilled if that crack in the pine was a permanent residence, and I haven’t scared it away for good. Further research revealed that this is the season of breeding. Possibly, the snake has laid eggs. Maybe in that pine? That would be pretty amazing. ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY HATCH!!

I haven’t told my wife about this yet. La, if you’re reading this now, I PROMISE, it won’t hurt you.

One Comment

  1. Jim wrote:

    Glad to hear you have a snake. It will keep those varmints out of your garden. And good job with the ID, from the pictures you took and what I can see online, I agree with your Eastern Yellow Rat Snake identification.

    Now, I’m trying to imagine what Elise would do if we had a snake.

    Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

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