Saturday, July 31, 2010

A narrow fellow

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,--did you not,
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,--
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

--Emily Dickinson

We met a narrow fellow today while out for a ride on the bike trail. He--snakes are stereotypically masculine, as spiders are feminine--was a really large Pacific rattlesnake crossing the trail. D. thought he was over a meter, I thought somewhat less, though in the way of snakes and memory, he now seems more like four feet. This was a snake that had been having a good year. He had recently shed his skin, and his scales had a beautiful gloss to them. His diamond-patterned body had tinges of yellow, chestnut, olive, and maroon, and his rattle was at least seven segments. Folk traditions speak of snakes mesmerizing their prey, and his progress through the grass was mesmerizing. Snakes sometimes blunder; I’ve seen garter snakes stumbling, which they are clumsy enough to do even without legs. But for this snake, there was no frantic zigzagging or blundering along. He just moved as if he was water being poured through a channel in the weeds. Every so often, on viewing a particularly graceful dancer or skier, I've been seized by desire--not for the person, but for the ability to move like them. I felt the same way for this snake.

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