Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Encountering Nature, Part 2: Mutual Threat

The school where I taught was mostly surrounded by fields with cows and horses, so it wasn't entirely uncommon for the critters of nature to find their way onto the grounds. And, because I was the science teacher, people tended to bring them to me, figuring that science teachers like such things. (I had a different perspective -- but it's the thought that counts.) One of the biggest, hairiest spiders I've ever seen (other than tarantulas) was bottled up on my desk one day. Another time, someone excitedly yelled for me to come, so I went running -- into a small room where he'd found a black widow. There were a few rodents, a bat which had taken up residence on a back wall, and various other creepy-crawlies during my years there.

I'm a bit squeamish, mostly because I really don't like being surprised and the little buggers are sneaky. Still, I know lots of good reasons to appreciate these animals, and really didn't mind them too much under reasonably controlled circumstances. I even took a field trip where I intentionally set an example for my students by holding the animals handed to me -- not just a bird, but also a tarantula, a Madagascar hissing cockroach, and some rather large snakes.

Fast-forward to the present...

I returned home and suddenly noticed this at our porch:

After a few moments of "Auugggh! Snake!" I recovered my senses and approached.

Yes, this was indeed a snake, but I reminded myself he's just a little guy, and not really hazardous. These ones tend to respond cautiously to the world around them, slithering away from perceived threats rather than attacking. And really, even an attack isn't much of an issue for a me-sized mammal. In fact, I eventually decided that he was small enough to be non-threatening while still big enough that his back half was a decent distance from his mouth, so I took a deep breath and reached out to touch him. True to his species, he quickly slipped into that cement crack, out of sight.

Fear faced and disaster avoided... right?

Except that the place his slipped into is a snake-sized crack where the steps have shifted a little bit away from the porch as the ground has settled. And when I came out of the house a little later, I found that he'd returned to that same spot to sun himself, as snakes do.

He slid back behind the steps when he decided I was too close again.

...and then came out yet again awhile later.

The snake rustles noticeably as he drops back into the soil and dried leaves which have slipped into that crack and accumulated there, so it sounds like a much bigger creature, or even (to my active imagination) like a wild snake party back there. Unfortunately, I really can't see much from any angle:

It's just a snake.

Just a harmless little garden snake.

And he's more frightened of me than I am of him.

But I still wish he were not hanging out at our front porch.

1 comment:

Kathleen Allison said...

Ummmmm...I would have S**T myself and then called 911...for real. Snakes are evil.