Sunday, August 2, 2020

We Are Not Alone

One of the many tenants of our place, a wheel bug searching for a green caterpillar to munch on. These guys are numerous
this year. They are everywhere I look. They also enjoy walking along the edge of the brim of my garden hat.
Carrying a large basket filled with freshly picked collard greens I headed toward the back door. Before reaching the stone steps I paused.
"Oh shit."
I marched into the house and said, "We've got another one."
My husband knew what I meant.
I donned my work boots and we went outside to catch ourselves a snake, a venomous copperhead snake. They live on the rocky, wooded hillsides that surround our house. We know they are there, and don't worry. They are welcome there, but not in the gardens, and certainly not in the terraced flower garden that wraps around the house.
As I'd walked from the garden I'd noticed the copperhead curled on a large stone at the bottom of the terraced garden. I think it noticed me when I saw it, because it seemed to recoil slightly, but did not move away.
We had captured and relocated another copperhead just a few days early, so the snare, a board and a five-gallon bucket had been left by the back door -- just in case.

One thing you learn quickly when you live in the country, especially with woods all around is that you are not alone. This is not "your" place. It belongs to all the creatures that live there and they care nothing about your rules, your "supposed to..."

A few days earlier I had stepped out the back door to go cut some herbs for tea when I noticed a tall piece off grass sticking up out of the patch of oregano by the steps. I reached over and pulled the grass easily from the soft soil. Just after the grass came free a copperhead slid through the oregano and into a space in the stacked stone terrace wall.
I felt no shock of adrenaline, just, well, I'd call it chagrin. That's the best word I can find.
"No, no, no. You're not supposed to be here. You're supposed to stay in the woods," I said.
But what do wild creatures know of human rules? "Supposed to? What does that mean?"
A little later, the snake showed itself and we attempted to capture it, but it disappeared into the rocks again.
The next morning my husband came in and said, "Let's catch ourselves a snake."
We got it, but not without a struggle. It had come only halfway out of the rock wall and when we tried to pull, it snugged itself in tightly. I felt nothing but compassion and love for this terrified creature -- a great change since the first time we encountered copperheads here.
The snake finally went into the bucket, I clapped on the lid and we took it for a ride, to a place where the creek comes close to the road, and set it free. I blessed it as it moved away. We also were successful in relocating the second snake and have encountered no more, although I scrutinize the flower garden every time I am on that side of the house, looking for the coppery markings.

Flutter, flutter.

We are not alone. I am reminded of that every day. Birds sing songs of love and competition. Vultures glide against the clear blue sky. Geese filled our little pond in early spring. Frogs sing at night. Toads hide in the damp soil of my potted porch plants. Bees hum busily at the flowers and butterflies flutter, flutter, flutter by. Rabbits dance in the clearings in the evening and dig, dig, dig in the mulched garden paths at night. Raccoons (or opossums) feast on cantaloupe the day before I plan to harvest it. Squirrels steal peaches and apples.

So I make adjustments. Chicken wire fences surround the vegetables most likely to be eaten by rabbits. A five-gallon bucket is upended over a nearly-ripe cantaloupe and weighted down with a rock (a bigger rock this time) to thwart midnight thieves. (Still haven't figured out how to thwart squirrels.) I plant flowers for the bees and butterflies. When I worked to clear away nearly finished compost and found snake eggs (most likely black rat snake; copperheads give live birth) I worked around them and left the eggs as undisturbed as possible. I hope they are still viable. Supposedly, black rat snakes help keep venomous snakes at bay, as well as catching mice and rats and baby rabbits. Life has its checks and balances.

We are not alone. Even though sometimes the critters here can be a nuisance, they are part of this land. They belong here as much as I do, maybe more so. I can't claim ownership of this place. That's a human thing, and not even all humans believe in ownership of the Land. Animals don't honor property lines.

We are not alone. I am not in charge, definitely not in control. I can only manage things.. a bit. I'm the only one who cares about my "rules." Nature has her own rules and I must abide by those, as well.

We are not alone.

And I am glad of it.

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