I caught a snake this morning.
You will see him, small, green, stripped, tender, like spring shoots. I have been catching and loving snakes all my life, well since I have been coordinated enough to get behind their head, stoop and scoop them up.
But now I am 57, and when I saw this little beauty slithering among my daffodils, my first instinct wasn’t to capture him. I was alone in the country with my gray barn cat Huey Newton. Kids away, husband having a weekend of loud stereo, steak for dinner every night and sports on three TVs simultaneously. I was supposed to be up here at the little farm to write, but spring is overwhelming to me. All I see are leaves to be raked, piles to burn, patches to weed and earth so fecund and glorious that I really do creak down to my knees just to inhale the aroma.
I also stop to sniff hyacinths, both gigantic and the delicate grape varieties and it was among the spring blooms that I saw my snake. In an instant he was mine. I held his head gingerly, close to what would be his ears, and watched as his red and black tongue darted in and out feeling the air for clues. He wrapped his body, about six inches worth of him, around my arm and I felt that familiar cool. I love a snake, smooth, cool, sinuous, I know all the subliminal stuff, but hell if “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” than can’t a snake be a luscious wild thing to scoop up bravely at 57, same as I did at 7.
I held him and sat down on the garden bench and called out for the only other creature in earshot. “ Come here Huey; I caught a snake.” And then I cried. I wanted to call out for my baby boy, but he is in the college library finishing papers, studying. I missed not having a little boy with whom I could share my triumph of catching a snake at 57. I thought about friends with little boys, but they are city boys and, in truth not very gentle, or respectful of animals. I thought of my grandbaby yet to come, orbiting the universe waiting for me, the way I waited for my kids to come to me. And I cried more because I missed not having the magic of little kids in my life.
I am between mother and grandmother; I do not want to rush my children into being parents when I took such a leisurely path, but I see time catching me behind the neck and holding me as I wriggle from time to time. When I fell and twisted my ankle, I felt that grip of time, when I got sunburned yesterday in the first spring blast; I saw my unprotected skin suffer. So today I held a beautiful ribbon snake and giggled by myself after my tears subsided. That is me; always has been me; a flip from water works to elation.