Monday, April 8, 2013

On Being a Snake

Scott Bradley


I recently mentioned holding a tiny snake in my hand — the first I have seen this year. I showed it to a friend who was working with me in the garden and then released it into a pile of dead vegetation where it would be safer than where I’d found it. (I'd barely missed chopping it with a hand-hoe.) That was it; in a moment it was gone. Then I missed it.

Though I have often admitted that these posts are necessarily about me, still I do try to avoid describing the minutiae of my life as if they could be of any great interest to you, or that they were possessed of profound meaning. This post may be an exception.

This snake, a sharp-tailed snake, is about six inches long, a third as thin as a pencil, deep copper on top, with alternating black and white scales on its belly. It is simply beautiful. I fell for it immediately. I wanted to keep it, possess it. (I've been a collector of things natural since I first crawled into a garden.) But it belongs in the world at large, not in a jar.

Why I am writing about this despite knowing myself unable to articulate the profound feelings it has aroused in me, I am not sure. Maybe in trying I can better understand and appreciate them.

How can I possess this snake and its wondrous beauty, its tiny black eyes, its barely detectable flicking tongue, the perfect symmetry of its minute scales? How can I be one with this snake, rejoice together with it in its being alive and beautiful in the world despite its diminutive size, apparent vulnerability, and now total anonymity? (Though you may be asking Why, here I address only the How.)

Might it not begin in letting it go; watching its tail disappear into safety? Nothing to which we cling is ours. The closer we hold something to our breast, the greater our fear of losing it. The more we fear to lose something, the less we have ever really 'possessed' it. We cannot truly possess anything, of course — not even our own selves. It is not in clinging, whether to things of mystery and beauty or to life itself, that we 'possess' them, are them, but in letting them and ourselves be free in the vastness of Mystery where we are all things and all things are us.

Since space remains on this page, I will admit to having a pet grub in a jar. I found it months ago when clearing a rotting, fallen and shattered tree off the road, so it was also a rescue mission. It’s about as big as my index finger, and I’m curious to see what kind of wondrous beetle it will become. Meanwhile, it seems contented enough munching away on its native wood.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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