Join Us in Despair

You know when you were a kid and your diary was full of angst and woe-is-me-ness? That is what this blog is for. Lost your job, dog is sick, someone stole your parking spot, crashed your car, just generally glum? This is the place to put all that lovely grey and those long drawn out sighs.

Lists of sad songs. Depressing movie reviews. Top ten reason to stay in bed. All things not happy. Bring them here.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Snakes and Spiders

She said the high point of the weekend's excursion was tripping over a green snake. Snake. My worst nightmares are Freudian night movies of falling and snakes. The thought of camping on the same ground that a green snake calls home or highway is unsettling. Getting into my sleeping bag and curling up to a green snake would cure me instantly of my perennial itch for the Great Outdoors. At the bottom of the tent entrance is an opening between side and bottom zippers large enough for a cat to pass through if it skinnied itself. Definitely not a problem for a day-glo chartreuse snake.

When she yelled out to me, "snake" I expected the usual variety of green and black garter snake. They are as common as worms. Any other snake is foreign and equally unnerving.

Memories do not fade quickly when it comes to snakes. Years ago, the sighting of a six foot granite-red and sand-tan snake near the house makes me wary of the place even now. Walking up the railroad tie steps between the lower yard and the house, I am unaware a bull snake is sleeping on a step. I leap two steps when I spot the sleeping giant, heart in my mouth. Coming home from work, I'm directed to the backyard. A snake crawls out of a drainpipe. Above the white PVC culvert, a squirrel is poised to attack. The crunch of the squirrel's teeth on the snake's skin is loud and disturbing. The snake fights back biting the squirrel once, then twice in the area below its neck. The squirrel beats a retreat.

I'm not afraid of spiders. I should be more afraid. She's not afraid of snakes, but spiders strike terror in her heart. I intellectualize that snakes and spiders are as important as bats in the ecosystem. My mind is a strange jumble of fear and information.

A friend shows me her shoulder. In a motel room in a small northern Wisconsin blurb, she is bitten by a wolf spider. The shoulder looks like the aftermath of a bout with a prize fighter. An area the size of a grapefruit just below the top of the shoulder is multi-colored red and purple. The pictures from the emergency room visit are equally disturbing. I turn my head. I remember a camping trip in Canada. A man comes through the same portage. With a canoe on my shoulders avoiding rocks strewn in the path, I look at his face. His lip is huge. When he talks, his lower lip flaps like a small pancake.

An important point of communication arises, prompted by spider stories.. Because I do not share the same fear of spiders, I dismiss her feelings with an insensitive, "Ah, what are ya afraid of?" Then, an image pops up in my mind. She's lying in bed wrapped in bandages. Guilt and shame follow. Would she rush you to the hospital when bitten by a snake? Of course, she would.

In a relationship simple problems can make communication difficult. Sometimes the solutions are simple, too. All one really has to do is communicate. Talk to me. Humor softens terrible times. In an ironic twist, my sister tells me of her daughter's husband. He's walking to the convenience store for a six pack of beer. Along the way, he spots a snake in the bushes. He's intrigued and not at all afraid. Toying with the snake with a stick, the snake bites him on the arm. Undaunted, he purchases his beer. On the way home he realizes he has a problem. If he leaves his beer at home and goes to the emergency room, his no 'count brother will drink the beer. Solution, drink the beer and then go to the hospital. The flight for life helicopter transfers him from Georgia to another state because they do not have enough anti-snake venom. He dies in flight.

The snake in the picture? A stuffed reminder not to be afraid. The snake sits atop an old record player at the far end of the living room. Locals tell of a year when the drought was so severe, rattlesnakes descend the limestone cliffs looking for water. I live 100 yards from a river. It'll be difficult to sleep tonight.

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