While walking down the garden path, I was stopped by the sight of a black rat snake, its body woven loosely through the low weedy plants. The snake was a youngster, too young to have the heft and scratched hide of a mature adult, but too old to be striped and worm-like. It was about two feet long and was basking in the weak heat of an overcast noon. The snake was entirely still, but its whole being said: alive.
Light hit the snake’s scales and melted. Black. Somehow, an earthy deity had lifted its head from the ground and breathed life into graphite. I’ve never been so captivated by a snake’s quiet presence.
In my admiration and greed, I wanted to catch and remember this beauty. So I walked to the house for my camera. Of course, the snake was gone on my return, leaving a wavy line of pressed vegetation as a mark of its passing.
So far this year, I have not seen the big old rat snake that used to patrol our garden. Even the strong snaky smell around the apple trees has dissipated. This newcomer may have wandered into a deceased old-timer’s empty domain. To stay, I hope.