Thursday, August 23, 2012

shed skins

I wrote this in 2007 in response to a writing prompt of some sort.

I haven’t been around snakes all that much, but I’ve always felt a tenderness for them. When I was a kid we talked about big fierce shiny black racers that would turn themselves into hoops and whirl after us across the fields where we played. These tales didn’t make me afraid of snakes, though. I remember holding my friend Mark’s pet blacksnake in an old dive bar in Athens, Georgia, feeling its dry narrow body curve around my forearms through the skin of Southern Comfort I was wearing. And another time, we were paddling down a blackwater river in south Georgia one unseasonably warm February day and we nearly crashed into a big water moccasin sunning itself on a branch on the banks. We steered away and I watched the snake get smaller with some odd sense of missing it. Mostly around here I just see the dry paper shells of snakeskins shed and left by Cove Road or down by the path into the ravine. Or I read about them, about how Dennis Covington got caught up in handling serpents in backwoods Alabama churches, and some ancient pagan part of me wonders about the trickiness of that, the sliding of muscle over sleeve onto arm, the flare or hiddenness of fangs, the thickness of those triangled heads. There’s mystery there I suppose but also plainness, the elemental earthliness of snakebelly, reptile eye. There was, I remember now, also a large boa constrictor that lived in the walls of the house my family rented the year my parents split, or so we were told by the people who lived there before us. They were friends of ours, and I knew that snake; it had lived in my eighth grade classroom the previous year, and I never felt frightened for an instant of its alleged presence in the plumbing. It felt reassuring, a hunger gone outlaw, a jailbreak, a movement from domesticity into wildness, from a glass box into the shadowed wall and floorspaces I couldn’t even imagine the dimensions of, the ones we slept between and above, the ones that held us tame and gave us heat and water. I liked to think of Bo the boa curled around the plastic knee of a pipe, warm with the pressure of city water, sleeping off a feast of mice and crickets, a fallen creature, lonesome, large, and grand with the solitude of escape.


  1. This is wonderful! Most people won't admit to a fondness for snakes, I will on occasion if pressed. I've had to kill several snakes up on Burnt Mountain, rattlers and copperheads, one cottonmouth. Living in the garden or under the cabin was just to close for me with 3 small children. Nothing personal, just good-housekeeping. Thanks, I enjoyed this!

  2. sure! I love Scott's story about the snake. Glad you enjoyed this.


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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at or