Thursday, May 30, 2019

Shiver Me Timbers

     Earlier this spring I read that there would be a high number of snakes in Virginia this year. Lo and behold, I have already seen many. Typically, I will see one or two on the road throughout the summer but this year I have already seen four in two weeks time. The last one was in the yard.
    On Monday, I was relaxing by the pool (as in kiddie) and I saw two Brown Thrasher birds hopping around the trunk of the plum tree. At first I thought they were fighting with each other. Steve watched from his porch seat and I from the pool as they hopped in circles around the trunk for several minutes. Then Steve said, "There's a snake there!" I stood up and sure enough there was a black snake and the birds were hopping on it and fluttering back and forth as they attacked it with their feet. The snake was languid about the whole thing until Steve went out and shooed it away. Unfortunately, it went straight under the forsythia bushes where there erupted a panic and noise from within. The mockingbirds had set up house in those bushes and when they saw the snake all heck broke loose. It was pure mayhem as birds squawked, branches shook, and three baby birds came hopping out from underneath. We stepped back as the battle raged inside the bushes. We watched as other species of birds swept down to investigate the commotion. Thrashers, mockingbirds, blackbirds, and martins all dove down and swept past. Two blackbirds actually entered the fray and Steve's commentary followed with, "Here come the blackbirds to save the day." We had never seen anything like this and it was more entertaining than any action adventure movie.
     Well, all of this went on for a good twenty minutes until I finally decided to visit Mrs. Cahoon with an apple pie. The birds and snake were fighting it out within the bushes and whatever happened happened. When I returned forty-five minutes later, all was quiet. Steve had continued to watch and he was convinced the birds killed the snake. I was more inclined to think the snake slunk away unnoticed by Steve's eyes. We may never know.
     What I learned, according to this article, is that snakes like brush piles and railroad ties. We have both. We also have a wood pile and I know snakes like those too. What I also learned from this article is that it is generally illegal to kill snakes in Virginia unless they are a hazard. I don't mind having these black snakes around because they keep the mice and rodent population down. However, even though not venomous, they will bite when provoked and I really don't want to come into a close encounter with one. Steve was bitten by a snake years ago when we lived in Alabama. He never saw what bit him, but there were two punch marks on the back of his leg it made him sick and damaged the skin on his leg so badly that he needed to go to the E.R.
     Because of all the snakes I have seen, I am more vigilant when I walk outside these days. I try to scan the ground ahead, walk with a stick, and weed very, very carefully around the railroad ties and rocks that form the hardscape in one of our flower beds. I will also need to give the grandchildren a brief lesson in snake awareness when they come to play on the property. We will learn to coexist with them as best we can and I hope and pray that we only see black snakes and no rattlesnakes or copperheads...please!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Like Good Friends

     Like a faithful friend, here is my journal waiting for me to pick up our relationship right where we left off six months ago. It feels comfy and familiar and I've missed it.

     The Blue Ridge Mountains are looking very blue this evening. It's easy to see why they were named as such. You can see that the fields in the foreground have just been cut and the sound of tractors with their swoosh-swoosh-swoosh of cutters is now heard from neighboring fields. It's a soothing, summer sound. The smell of cut and drying hay mixed with the heady, sweet scent of honeysuckle fills the air. It is a mood altering aroma for certain. 
     I am home alone this afternoon and evening and it's given me a carefree opportunity to wander around the field and garden, catching up on what I've missed of late. Today was the last day of school and the two weeks leading up to this have been intense. My particular job is nothing stressful compared to what the teachers and full time staff endure nevertheless, the stress is palpable. The last day of school is one big release from all of that building up of stress. We have reached the finish line. Remember being a child on those last days of school and what that felt like?
     Today was a big milestone in what feels like a year of milestones. I tendered my resignation last month and today was my last day of work. It is a bittersweet feeling because I worked in a very nice school with superb staff and a perfect work schedule. I regret leaving that behind. However, I also turned the big 6-0 this spring and it caused me to think about how I've been spending my time and made me realize I want to spend more time with my busy family. They are scattering all over the place and no one is getting any younger so the time has come for me to chase after them. I also feel a strong desire to be more creative and these are the things I look forward to doing without being on a tight schedule.

Along my walk, I pause at the swing and see that Mr. Squirrel has been dining on the seat. I can't help but wonder if he had a hard time keeping his balance as he ate. Did the swing move while he dined? He certainly had a table with a view.
     I'm taking in all these pleasant sights and smells and listening to the distant tractors. It is not lost on me what a balm these sights and aromas are. They are the same environment of sixteen years yet they are completely new every season and every year. It is far from me to ever take them for granted. I'm reminded of a book I listened to called "The Three Day Effect" by Florence Williams. She also wrote a book called, "The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative". We don't need a book to tell us what we already know from experience but, it was interesting to listen to the data and hear examples of people's lives touched by spending time in nature.
     I haven't had an unbroken three days to spend in nature however, I do like to be outside as often as I can. We've done one three mile hike this spring, we've run up and down the fields with kites, spent many hours grooming the garden, and Tess and I ventured into the woods a few times to forage Virginia Creeper vines with which to build a wattled compost bin. Tromps into the woods are my favorite! (I do not like finding ticks in my belly button while lying in bed at night nor seeing snakes everywhere! But, that comes with the territory.)

     As I walk up and down our gentle slopes, I am aware of the lack of intense hip pain that had been my companion for the last five years. After a year of doctor visits, x-rays and MRI's, suggested surgery and two rounds of physical therapy, I feel armed with coping mechanisms to reduce the pain and avoid surgery for the time being. The torn cartilage can't be healed but the pain it causes can be managed. Another milestone reached. I've joined the gym, attended my first yoga class and lost three pounds thus far. There are still days of pain but, they are less frequent and I am encouraged by my regained abilities.
     Finally there is time and place for contemplation. I feel like I can really think when I'm outside. For some reason, I seem to need a lot of that. Whether I'm mowing the lawn, pulling weeds or walking up the road, it's the right environment to sort things out. It was a winter of discovering things about myself that I did not know, of long ago secrets that I will never, ever understand, an unearthing of truth that caused me to question the very pores on my skin and the furrow on my brow. I am too old for self discovery. I assumed I had already arrived at myself. Haha! But, not so. Like the damage in my hip, this damage will never heal. It is something I must learn to live with, like a sliver under the skin that can't be removed. Acknowledge it, yes. Accept it, probably no. Subconsciously, one just wants to keep digging at it to make it go away. I'm not sure there's enough walking in the woods or staring at clouds that can sort this one out but, I'll try. I certainly have the time now, don't I?