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
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
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!
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.