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This Wonderful Life

July 9, 2009

This Wonderful Life: I call her 'Tina' for short

Every year, the snake returns to the front garden, reminding me of my ambivalent relationship with the great outdoors.

At least, I assume it’s the same snake. I’m not quite sure of a snake’s average lifespan, but I know that I’ve been seeing a progressively larger snake every summer for three years.

It is a garter snake, I think. I tried looking up species of New York snakes, but the photos and descriptions made me feel like I was about to shed my own skin, so I closed the browser. Assuming it’s the same snake, let’s call her Serpentina, she has grown to a healthy length of 18 inches or so. She is greyish brown with yellowish stripes running the length of her, close to the ground. In the mornings or on days when the garden is particularly cool and wet, Serpentina likes to make her way out onto the stone walkway, where she waits to scare the beejeziss out of me when I take out the dogs or walk to my car.

Okay, I know she is not trying to frighten me. I know she is trying to get herself all warm and dry.

And I know that I am far more frightening to her than she is to me. I know this because she slithers back into the garden the instant she sees me coming.

The problem is, she usually sees me before I see her. I see her when she makes that last-ditch effort to avoid being stepped on, and I scream — the very same scream I scream when a cow looks in my dining room window.

It’s not dignified.

I love the outdoors. I love the garden overflowing with lilies and Queen Anne’s lace and dotted with wild strawberries. I love that it’s possible to walk barefoot in the yard, something you could never do in my Southern hometown, unless you wanted to shred your feet to ribbons on sand spurs. I love the hillsides and sunsets and moonlight pouring over the surface of the lake. I can think of almost nothing so splendid and breathtaking as the landscape that surrounds us.

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This Wonderful Life
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