For those of you following or participating in the Spring Photo Diary Challenge, here is my entry for “make a new friend”. I observed this snake playing in the rain yesterday. After conferring with snake savvy friends, it appears that he’s a rat snake and not a water moccasin like I first suspected. Meeting him was interesting because I don’t have much experience around snakes and I went through many emotions in a short period of time – think the 5 stages of Grief, Reptile Edition in warp speed.
First, I felt my stomach turn a little when I saw him swiftly SWIMMING across the road on our way home. Next, I felt worried that I’d accidentally ran him over with my car because he crossed right in front of us and we felt a little bump. After dropping off Mossy and the kids, I circled back to check on him and found him looking alive and well, slithering to and fro and opening his white mouth to taste the rain (I might have just romanticized that part but it’s sure what it looked like).
I felt amazed while I watched him slither, glide, and explore his surroundings. He was mesmerizing to watch. I was very hopeful that I hadn’t hit him after all. Next, I felt protective of a small dog that was running around in the rain and began approaching the snake as if to sniff it. I wasn’t yet sure what type of snake he was or if he was venomous so I shouted at the dog to “SHOO!” (surprisingly effective) and he ran away unscathed.
I sat in my car, parked with my hazards on, watching as car after car sped by, not noticing and almost hitting him. He managed to dodge every tire and I soon found myself rooting for him. “Get to the storm drain!” I found myself saying. The rainwater was rushing off the streets into drains below the sidewalk and I wondered why he didn’t seek refuge. Soon, a woman drove up in a truck and asked me if I was okay. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might look odd, parked in the middle of the street with my windows down during a storm, staring at the road.
I let her know that I was just watching the beautiful snake in the road. Without missing a beat, she gunned her gas and drove right at him. Then she threw it in reverse and tried to back over him. My stomach flipped and I immediately felt enraged. She tried to squash him three times until I honked at her and pleaded that he might not be poisonous. She shrugged, said she had to get home to her son, and sped off.
Her reaction deeply unsettled me. I can understand being nervous about a large snake being close to a popular park with a busy playground. But there wasn’t a single person out that day and he was minding his business in the street. The knee-jerk reaction to just destroy something we don’t immediately understand, be it race, religion, or anything remotely off-center or mysterious, recalled way too many examples from current events. My heart dropped and suddenly I not only felt sympathetic but allied with the snake. By this point, he was curled tightly into a protective spiral. I watched the minutes tick by with dread, knowing that I had to leave him soon or I’d be late for work. The last drops of rain trickled down my windshield as the sky started to brighten and I sent my scaly new friend a nod of solidarity.
As I drove away, I realized that I was suddenly filled with an appreciation for something I don’t get to see everyday. And that’s one of my favorite things about making new friends.