Snake Weather

March usually means spring in Phoenix. This year, though, February was a lot like spring. I haven’t wanted to say much about it because I know how many of you have been struggling with a rough winter. Let’s hope most of that is behind you now. If not, remember that sometimes we get some negative with the positive. And that’s what I’m writing about here.

Some February days it is so cold in Phoenix that I have to wear a wool coat. But I don’t mind too much because I know that sunny and temperate days await me in March and April. And I am happy to wait for late March when the snakes wake up from their hibernation.

But this year, with the weather in the 80s in February, the local television stations issued warnings during their news reports: “Warmer weather brings out snakes earlier this year.”

So I’ve been on the lookout for snakes for a month now. The snakes to worry about are rattlesnakes, but most people don’t like to find any kind of snake in their path. Most people respond as Emily Dickinson’s persona describes:

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him, -did you not?
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun, –
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

That swift intake of breath, the quickening of the pulse, the flipflop of the stomach . . . . Yup, I’m just like most people!

King snake behind my house in a previous year

We have a variety of snakes in this area, but the most common snake near my house is the King snake. These are the big black snakes with beautiful creamy stripes. They are non-venomous snakes that eat baby rattlesnakes, so I think of them as protectors of my property. But they are large and powerful and do bite–and they are snakes, after all. We also have gopher snakes, which are huge and brown and mimic rattlesnakes by raising their shoulders to make their heads look wider and pretending to rattle their tails.

I haven’t seen a snake yet this year, but I am careful not to reach into a pot or behind a watering can without looking first.

I’m telling you all this about snakes so that you realize that the beautiful spring weather we’ve had this winter doesn’t come without “thorns.”  But there is no doubt that it is beautiful.

Many of our flowering shrubs, trees, and plants have bright yellow blossoms.dsc03974

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

51 responses to “Snake Weather

  1. Warm weather brings snakes to the Midwest, too, but I’ve never seen a rattler here.
    Love the yellow vine. Cheerful!

    • Luanne

      I used to live in Michigan, and we had a lot of little garter snakes. But I will admit that there were blue racers which creeped me out. And then there were water moccasins ugh!

  2. Thank you for that breath of spring, snakes or not!

    • Luanne

      I’m glad you can enjoy it, even in the midst of this crazy winter. I will admit I’m getting a little worried about what our summer is going to bring since we never had winter. Will the usual temperature of 110-114 be a thing of the past? Will it be 120?

  3. I love that tree, Luanne and with the yellow blossoms, it definitely looks like spring.
    Yikes! I freak out when it comes to snakes, even the “good” ones. Do you have scorpions hanging around as well? I love Arizona, but I think I’m too jumpy to live there. 🙂

    • Luanne

      It’s a vine actually. But I love the way it looks against my house column. It’s right outside my office window too :).
      You want to talk scorpions? Creepy creepy creepy. Ours are beige, almost colorless. That’s so they can hide on light colored carpet or tile and WALLS and bedspreads.

  4. We have roaches here the size of potatoes, but I think I’d rather deal with them than the snakes! Ack!!

    • Luanne

      Potato roaches? Man, that ain’t nuttin. We have giraffe roaches! No kidding. I was sitting at the computer, minding my own (and everybody else’s) business, when suddenly I noticed a gigantic cockroach LOPING toward me like a giraffe! I turned into a psychopathic killer and tried to squish it with the wastebasket, but it wouldn’t die. Have I told this story before? Maybe I have. That’s bad when you start to repeat yourself. Anyway, I couldn’t get the thing to die. Then I freaked out that I had crippled it and it was in PAIN and I couldn’t kill it and put it out of its misery (since it was the size of a mammal). So I called my son at work and asked him to come to my house and kill it for me! Please don’t tell anybody what an anti-feminist move that was.

      • I hate having to kill them, but I cannot abide them and they simply must die. The worst is when I try to kill one, and it gets away and disappears, and I know it’s still in the house somewhere. Ugh!

  5. Lovely photos! I’m happy to hear that someone is getting nice weather.

    • Luanne

      I actually feel kind of undeserving and greedy, as if I’m hogging the only good weather in the country!

  6. Thanks for sharing spring sights and insights. We need them in Michigan after another night of subzero (at-the-bone) temperatures. Also welcome are words from Emily D. Always so modern –> what a hep chick!

  7. I love the yellow allamanda trumpets. I have a tree herein FL and a vine. They really brighten up the garden.

    • Luanne

      Is that what they are?! Are you sure? Do the leaves look right?

      • Allamanda is a yellow trumpet vine that you can buy as a vine or a bush. Mine has grown so big here in Florida that I call it a tree. They come in several varieties and many colors with different sized and shaped blossoms.

        • Luanne

          Thanks for letting me know what it is! Ours is really a vine as there is no bulk to it, but lots and lots of spread! Although we have so many bright yellow flowering plants, it’s my favorite of them all. The flowers are such a beautiful shade of yellow and the blossoms have a lovely shape.

  8. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    Snakes abound on the island where we live on the Mississippi River. I’m forever snapping a picture then going inside to research what kind of snake it was. Fortunately, I know what a cottonmouth looks like; while we have rattlers, the moccasins are more common around the water. And your yellow blossoms look like our Carolina jasmine—thanks for reminding me it will return!

    • Luanne

      Cottonmouths and moccasins–their very names make me shiver. Growing up in Michigan, we had one lake in particular that was very swampy and notorious for being full of moccasins.
      And here I thought jasmine was always white!
      Ellen, stay safe around all that venom!

  9. “All creatures, great and small…” Snakes are not my favorite, but I’ve managed to co-exist with them at our lake in Michigan over the years. No rattlers, mind you, but snakes, all the same! I look upon them as just one more piece of this earthly puzzle, populated according to God’s wishes.

    • Luanne

      Are you in Michigan?! I didn’t realize that! I’m from Kalamazoo and grew up around a few lakes in that area. As I mentioned above to Ellen, there was one lake near us full of moccasins. I think it was Sugarloaf. Our cottage was on a lake in Texas Township that had plenty of swamp, but we really never had a snake problem. Bullfrogs yes :).

  10. I appreciate the ‘helpful’ snakes, too – as long as they’re not within 20 feet of the house. Anything closer gets hurled into a field or . . . you know. It was lovely to see some yellow – based on the fact that it’s 6 degrees today (not very typical for Oklahoma in March) our forsythia may not be making much of an appearance this year.

    • Luanne

      I can’t imagine how awful it is to have such fierce winter this late. I do miss the visits I used to enjoy to OKC/Norman, but maybe not this year! Yes, hurled. My husband used to hurl snakes over the back wall when we lived in California!

  11. That’s one of my favourite poems (zero at the bone) and the other one I like is DH Lawrence’s poem “Snake” – A snake came to my water-trough….And I have something to expiate:
    A pettiness.
    But poems aside, this is a very nice post. Enjoyed reading all about how it is where you live, with regard to snakes and weather.

    • Luanne

      Anneli, I love that poem, too! Thanks for reminding me about it. I always like to see what it’s like elsewhere, too. It’s almost like travelling ;).

  12. We have about 7 inches of snow here, so it will be a while before the snakes come out here. We have plenty of them including copperheads. Last summer I noticed that a yellow and brown bungee chord had ended up on the garage floor. Just as I reached for it, it moved. It was a small copperhead, and I’m betting he would not have appreciated a lift! (We are normally fairly hospitable, but we sent that snake to the big garage in the sky.

    • Luanne

      Ugh, Elyse, I’m sorry you still have that much snow.
      And what a scary story! You went to grab for it, just like in the Dickinson poem! Copperheads are not something I miss. All this talk in the comments here about moccasins and cottonmouths and now copperheads, in addition to the rattlesnakes, and I am starting to dislike snakes! Too many venomous ones, and then there are the lookalikes, just to make it worse!

  13. Snakes do play an important role in our ecosystem so I’m relieved that you’re not one of those people who feel that snakes should not be allowed to live. Sadly, I’ve met people who think all snakes should be killed. You seem to have a healthy respect for them 🙂 Here in Florida we have our fair share: water moccasins, rattlesnakes, gray rat snakes (nonvenomous). My husband and I like to observe them (from a distance) since many of them are quite beautiful. But I don’t like to be surprised by them, and they probably don’t like to be surprised by me 😉 Hiking and canoeing becomes a bit less enjoyable when I have to spend most of my time looking out for snakes. My husband has gone on hikes with a “crazy” field biologist named Bruce Means ( He thinks nothing of picking up a snake, be it venomous or not!
    Thanks for the spring-inspiring photos. We have scattered azalea blooms and the magnolia trees are in full bloom 🙂

    • Luanne

      Ah, lovely! I used to have a magnolia tree right at my front window when I lived in Michigan. It was unusual there and so beautiful. Later, I saw that the people who bought the house cut it down :(.
      Yes, observing from a distance is the way I like to encounter snakes. And some, like the kings, are beautiful. Some, like the rattlesnakes and gopher snakes, are hideous (to me). Rattlesnakes are such a downer for hiking here, too. But wouldn’t nature be boring if it were all lovely, day after day, without no break?

      • I can’t imagine why anyone would cut down a magnolia tree unless it was sick. We have some grand old magnolias around here 🙂 I don’t think Nature could ever be boring … it’s just not in her nature 😉 (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun ;))

  14. I’m looking for a place to move and you’ve probably talked me out of Arizona. All the flying critters kicked the entire SE off the list. Yikes–I don’t know where to go!

    • Luanne

      Haha, Jacqui, it’s all a ploy to keep the hordes from moving to Arizona ;). We use a pest control service that keeps the scorpions away, and the snakes aren’t exactly hanging from the trees every day (although that did happen one day). The bunnies and quail and hummingbirds are prevalent and adorable.

  15. Great introduction to the poem, wonderful photos, and a reminder that wherever you are, there will be the downfalls to the seasons, including snakes! I like the image of we get “thorns”…For me, beautiful roses. This picture always is one I get when I hear about thorns. I know they are on lots of other plants, even the fire bushes, but I think of roses. Makes me also think of Ethel Merman, belting out a song, “Everything’s coming up roses!” Robin is a little nutty today, smiles!

    • Luanne

      It’s so funny that you mention that song because I have just been reading Mama Rose’s biography!

      • Wow! Another example of ‘great minds think alike,’ Luanne. Or how our minds can be on paths that cross from time to time! I wish I had more time to read all the ones you mention or recommend.
        On another aside, at Girl Scout weeklong camping trips or overnights, even, all my friends would put me in charge of picking up the spiders and carrying out bats from the top of those tents that had wooden, upraised floors. I would stand on my cot and help ‘vanquish’ their fears! Gloves on for the bats… Robin

        • Luanne

          Great job with the critters, Robin! My daughter would like to keep you handy. She has a fear of spiders! Once there was one the size of a golf ball (plus legs) in her apartment when she was in college. She’s never been the same since ;).

  16. Lovely photos, especially of the flowers! We aren’t seeing any snakes here in Minnesota. If they were out, they’d look like sticks . . . frozen . . .

    As for snakes and cockroaches: I have stories . . . Perhaps I’ll scan a photo that I took long ago of a log house that I lived in one summer. I can tell a couple of tales about that . . .

    • Luanne

      Snakes are probably too smart to stay out in the cold and the snow! They must be hibernating! Ooh, a snake and cockroach story–like a horror story!

  17. Eek! I’m not afraid of snakes, per se, but I just don’t like them. I’m not a big fan of anything that slithers. I can’t imagine having to double check before putting your hands behind a gardening pot!

    You’re so right… we all have thorns during winter, no matter what region we live in. Thanks for sharing some beauty from AZ!

    • Luanne

      You’re right about the slithering. I’ve never been able to understand why people are afraid of mice, but I think it’s the darting that makes people nervous. That makes no sense to me, but slithering–yuk.

  18. Yes, slithering is unnerving! Your territory does have snakes as well as the
    “Jumping Cholla” cactus! Beautiful scenery however one must stay alert!

  19. Snakes are a big issue here, and you just get used to it. Garter snakes, not so much here, lots of Water-moccasins. Yikes!

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