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Snake At My Back Door

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

Two steps made of thick slabs of West Pawlet slate, flanked by overgrown bushes of ornamental sage, lead to our backyard. I\’d been smelling a lot of sage on Wolfie lately, and noticing that the bushes were looking trampled.

Yesterday I watched him snuffing in those bushes, then rearing back as though zapped by something, then snuffing again. I looked closely and there she was, brown and dry and curled up loosely upon herself–the snake. She was just under an inch in girth, and she resented the dog for interfering with her sunbathing.

I guess our back stoop is a perfect snake habitat: two slabs of south-facing slate, and a tub garden within easy reach.

I\’m assuming that this is a black snake, harmless to humans and pets. I\’m hoping that, come fall, she will stem the waves of field mice immigrating into our basement. My only concern is that she will eat the toads that are precious to my garden. Otherwise, I\’m glad to give her a home.

“I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” Jehovah said to the snake as Paradise disintegrated. Well, here is one woman (me) who doesn\’t feel a particular enmity toward the snake tribe. Why should I? I\’ve never been stung by a viper, nor strangled by a python. The snakes I have met have peered at me with their clever little eyes, shown me their curious forked tongues, and slithered away discreetly.

For eons before anybody wrote about Jehovah, the snake was sacred to the Goddess. Remember those Cretan statuettes in their flamenco skirts and amazing decolletages, holding snakes in their hands? They don\’t look to me like they\’re struggling with the snakes, or fighting with them. They\’re having a good time, and so are the snakes. And then the patriarchy came on the scene, and messed things up.

The Virgin Mary is often depicted with her foot on the head of a snake, who is holding an apple in her mouth. But is that really enmity? If Mary\’s foot were really crushing her skull, wouldn\’t the snake be struggling, looking wounded, or curling up the Virgin\’s leg? Would she still be hanging on to the apple?

If the Virgin Mary is who I think She is, Her foot is delivering a friendly pat, the snake is relaxed, and the apple from the Tree Of Knowledge is full of vitamins.

As for the snake in my back stoop, she\’s welcome to stay, and I hope the winter is kind to her.

10 Responses

  1. I seem to run into them a lot; and besides the one in the river with the white inner mouth hissing at me, I like them fine. I just wonder about them.My email address, not hickory, but the other, is a transliteration of the russian word for snake.

  2. I don't see snakes enough to have much of an opinion about them, but when I do see them (except for the time I almost stepped on a rattlesnake in New Mexico) I'm always happy about seeing them. I also like moths. And spiders.

  3. Dona, you're a braver woman than I am. I'm o.k. with non-deadly snakes, but as for moths, spiders, and those awful camel-back crickets that grow in basements, I run from them as fast as my legs will carry me.

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