Flying. Public speaking. Death. Three of life’s biggest fears right here in black and white. I’m not afraid to fly — I’ve done it more times than I can count and now that we live a good 400 miles from our families, flying is an almost necessity. I used to teach public speaking, so I think I’m good with that one. Death — well, to say I didn’t fear death would be a lie, but since having been diagnosed with melanoma and a now undefined auto-immune disease, I’ve had one too many chances to face my immortality and — who am I kidding? Death still scares the crap out of me. Some people have a fear of spiders — I’m okay with the arachnids — at least until I come face-to-face with my first black widow, that is. What I do fear more than anything is snakes. Those slimy, squirmy serpents really creep me out. As such, I try my best to avoid the Snake and Reptile house at any zoo and say a silent prayer every time I step into tall grass.
As a runner, I’ve come across a snake or two during a long bike path run. While running the Narragansett Bay Half-Marathon in August of 2014, I even mistook a long, flat, s-shaped stick in the road for a snake. I must have looked pretty ridiculous high-jumping over that one. Yesterday, I completed my long run of 10 miles (7 of it outside in the hazy, humid Virginia air and the last 3 miles on my treadmill in the air-conditioned basement) bright and early. It wasn’t one of my best runs, as I was tired and a bit sore from teaching PiYo the night before and then had to get up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 to get the run in before the sun got too high in the sky. After wiping down the treadmill, I made my way upstairs and noticed that our older male cat, Piccadilly, had, again, peed at the bottom of the basement stairs (good thing we keep a plastic drop cloth over the carpet just for these all-too-frequent occurrences). As I rolled up the tarp to throw it away, I noticed what I thought was another one of Piccadilly’s little presents. Cringing, I moved closer to the gift only to discover that it was even more foul than I thought: A small, brown snake was curled up on the carpet and appeared to be sleeping. OMG. All I wanted to do was scream and bolt up the basement stairs as fast as I could. But then I remembered that I am a grown woman and mother of two very young and easily-scared little girls. So, I composed myself, grabbed an empty cat litter bucket, carefully placed it over the snake and then placed a 16-pound bag of cat food on top just for good measure. Taylor could take care of freeing our new house guest when he got home that evening. My work was done.
After telling the girls not to disturb our little friend (they refused to go into the basement for the entire day), we went about our normal routine. Several times throughout the afternoon, I would peek down the stairwell to be sure that the little guy was still securely under the bucket. To my surprise, he was always right where I left him. I snapped the picture below during one of my check-ins. Believe me, I’m glad I got the photo on the first try.
Although I knew that the maybe 2 ounce, 7-inch long creature was not going anywhere, I couldn’t help but wonder how he got into the house. I felt pretty violated knowing that he had been silently slithering around my home for who knows how long. How long had he been here? How did he get inside? Was here born here? Was he watching me on the treadmill? Did he have any friends with him? (I hope not!) What if I had found him in the bathroom? Or, better yet — in my bed?? Thankfully, Taylor got home from work early, captured the snake in a plastic bowl and, of course, googled “brown snake with black spots” to see if we had anything potentially dangerous on our hands. As we suspected, the little serpent was just your run-of-the-mill garden snake, even though he told Clara it was a baby rattlesnake when she asked. At this point, we’re pretty sure that the snake was just a Northern Brownsnake:
But, he may have even been a Brown Snake of Massachusetts. When that possibility came up, Clara said, “You’re a long way from home Brown Snake of Massachusetts.”
Finally, it was time to bid a fond farewell to our little home invader. Based on his behavior in the bowl, he was eager to get back out into the wild (or, perhaps, Massachusetts as the case may be). The girls excitedly followed Taylor outside while I stayed indoors — ensuring a safe distance between myself and the snake’s point of release. But, believe me, before I went to sleep last night, I took a look under the bed and made sure to shake my blankets around a little more than normal. Hey — you never know, right? We do live in Virginia now and maybe finding snakes in your house is as common as finding bats or mice up north. I wonder if I could get a snake trap on Amazon…
Anyway, I guess this post signifies my understated return to blogging. Now that I’ve found some free time and inspiration, I’m back at it. I guess I owe one to Mr. Brownsnake. Although I feel slightly indebted to the little guy, I’m hoping our paths don’t cross again anytime soon.