If I had a blog, I would write about the speckled kingsnake that appeared on the porch last evening. Up front, I should tell you that I have very strong emotions about snakes; very positive emotions. I’ve always felt that non-poisonous snakes get a bum rap. From the Garden of Eden onward, humanity has taken a mean-spirited and largely undeserved opinion of the humble serpent. Take my kingsnake: He (or she) is a quiet, secretive individual, preferring shady woodlands and cool, damp gardens to sunny pastures or desert climes. He is gentle and (if needs be) easy to handle. Best of all, every variety of kingsnake is immune to the poison of all our venomous snakes and is quite happy to make a meal of them if the opportunity arises. I like the aphorism, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and since copperheads are a problem around here, the kingsnake is definitely my ally.
So why am I not among the throng that hates and fears all snakes? What makes me feel compassion for my serpentine brother when others are repelled? It all goes back to an epiphany I had as a ten year-old. We had just moved to our first farm and although I dearly loved nature, I was terrified of the coyotes that roamed our property after dark. Their howls sent shivers of terror up my spine and I had nightmares about glowing eyes and gnashing teeth. One night I was wakened by the eerie howls and as I trembled under my covers, a whippoorwill began to sing. That was the moment of enlightenment. Hearing my favorite birdsong juxtaposed with the coyote’s lonely refrain, I realized they were one in the same. The coyotes weren’t howling to be scary, they were howling because its what they do. Barking at the moon or celebrating a hunt was all about them and their particular joie de vie and nothing more. They couldn’t help sounding ghostly to human ears, they were using the voices The Universe gave them and I had no right to judge.
From that moment on, I looked at the whole of nature in a different way. I realized although humans certainly impact the natural world, Nature gives us very little thought. Spiders and snakes aren’t “out to get us,” wolves don’t care what color hoods we wear, and no wild creature dreams of the day when it will befriend a human. For the most part, Nature’s wish is to be left alone.
I will end today with a quote from writer and naturalist Henry Beston:
“For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions and the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations . “