Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I can feel my skin, loosening itself, releasing the old scripts, releasing what is not working and plunging in as though it were the first day of my birth. I am thinking of an old friend—may he rest in peace—an old friend whose passion was snakes. He was a snake breeder.

And it is now that I think of the many beautiful reptiles that I laid my eyes upon. Looking in on a new batch of corn snakes, I was reminded of different flavors of pale ice cream. Some of the Mexican snakes were bold black, orange, and yellow of different stripes and patterns. The California king snake stunned me with its black and white stripes; and I always had a soft spot for the western hog nosed snake with its upturned front, which made it appear to have a snout. It is a shorter snake with slightly thick body compared to other slender snakes.

He and I had a strained relationship. We had been lovers and friends and back again. In the end we realized we could only be friends, and at times I was like one of the guys in our escapades. Our friendship trailed off, though. I never had an opportunity to properly say goodbye. I’ve never been good at goodbyes. I’ve exhibited this in jobs, in relationships, and during difficult times. It’s a part of my nature, a sensitive soul that can appear like a rock on the outside—a soul that can retreat without much notice—a need to go away and never look back.


Lately, the image of a snake shedding its skin enters her consciousness. She realizes that she is feeling this shedding within herself. She sees the opaque covering, as it gently loosens to reveal a new fresh skin.

She feels at peace. She knows she had many ups and downs with her old friend of late and she knows that even though they drifted apart, they still shared pieces of time that remain. She always does things in her own way that is not always understood by others, but she must do what she must.

Her old friend comes to her mind of course because if not for him, she wouldn’t think of snakes in quite the same way.

She remembers a time when she decided to go with him to a snake show, where many other snake breeders would take their goods and sell them to the interested buyer. One container had a small batch of freshly hatched snakes. She cannot recall the breed, but they were a bit feisty. She took a snake out to show a buyer and the little devil bit her. It didn’t hurt and she didn’t bleed. It was like a pinprick.

Snakes are beautiful creatures. Their skin is smooth and cool to the touch, not slimy in the least bit. They slither along—one long muscle, effortless. I imagine it may seem cruel to keep a snake in captivity and perhaps there is some truth to this—to contain a creature that is used to having a vast amount of space, who then is confined to a small container. I wonder how the snakes feel about this. Since they are bred into captivity, does this lessen the desire to wander—or does the instinct come into force and take over?

She is experiencing the shedding of old skin…and she knows she can keep this image by her side as the coming months close in. She will take it month by month and wriggle out of her skin—remembering the cycle and not fighting it, continuing to embrace the change.


Vincent said...

Wow, this was fascinating, and a quite unexpected combination of ideas, images and observations about nature and life.

I too often wonder about various animals' reactions to confinement. Sometimes I reflect that Nature is cruel to various species, or apparently so. Man being one of those species. The thing to abhor is surely human callousness, in any form.

The other thing which struck me was the notion of shedding a skin, which one could associate with the notion of progressiveness in development. The insect sheds its pupa to become a butterfly, which we imagine as the purpose of the species, but that is just our view. As Samuel Butler observed in the 19th century, long before Dawkins spoke of the selfish gene, "a hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".

Or, and this might appeal to you, Daniel Dennett said in 1995 "A scholar is just a library's way of making another library."

Rebb said...

Vincent, I’m glad you enjoyed this! I had been thinking about it for a few days, maybe even a week before taking to the page. I’ll have to reflect more on how I see man/nature and the cruelty. I’m in the middle somewhere.

I’ve been thinking of taking a visit to our local wildlife museum—it’s not too big—and it’s changed since I was a young girl. It is also a wildlife hospital, so if someone finds a wounded bird, etc., that’s usually the first place to call. They have beautiful hawks and owls on display—rescued creatures, so they are in a better place and we humans get the opportunity to get up close.

Yes…progressiveness in development. When I was in my twenties a girlfriend and I went to the tattoo parlor. I didn’t know what tattoo I wanted. I looked through the books and found a simple butterfly. I decided not to get color and it really is just the outline of a rough butterfly. It is on my ankle. I don’t know why I chose it at the time, but it has come to represent that metamorphosis of life—the transformation that each element in this world goes thorough together and separately. It’s a reminder and I grew into it, layer by layer, year by year. Life is fantastic, isn’t it?! Always surprising us and leading us to someplace…

I love both quotes, especially the library quote.