Sunday, June 21, 2009


ONE BIG SECRET


A couple of days ago on a cloudy afternoon I went outside to see how much the lemongrass had grown. As I approached the place, I saw a young snake lazing on a board, getting what little sun there was.

There was something different about the snake though: it wasn’t the usual bright-striped, shiny garden snake, that coils perkily and disappears like a whiplash and all you see is the tail. As I drew nearer, this somewhat flattened, relaxed snake departed, but at his leisure-- not in the garden snake fright-hurry way at all, but with a fluid, casual, muscular self-assurance. Its color was mind-stirring as well, a choppy dark brown ringed here and there with a slightly lighter reddish-brown.

It was the unhurriedness that sent the message that first gave me pause, made me stand still to observe the manner, the fluidity, the weightiness, the snaky sauntering bravado-- what was it exactly, apart from the fact that I’d never seen such a snake around here before-- it seemed to exude power, it had an attitude of unafraid strength-- it knew something, it knew one big secret. It was not afraid, it was confidently cautious.

Late the next afternoon I went out on the deck, merely leaned over the railing to look at the spot and there the snake was again, like a puddle of clay. As soon as my head showed, the snake became alert, and made to move away; though I was downwind, it had sensed me; it must be a pit viper, sensing my heat even while dozing in the sun, and that brought it to alertness. That meant it must be a mamushi, Japan’s only poisonous snake. I looked it up on the net, and there it was. Up to 60cm in length.

In all the years here I've never seen one; they rarely move about in the daytime. It probably drifted here because of the paddy repair going on across the road. I suppose once I clear that overgrown area the snake will move elsewhere. It doesn't seem to care that I'm the "actual owner" of the land, or that it is keeping mice under control for me, maybe even monkeys too, for which I hope it senses my gratitude.

I probably won't see it again for another 15 years.

2 comments:

kevin said...

thats the scariest thing about them... they don't run away all the time. Working in the paddies barefoot I sometimes worry...

ted said...

It seems they prefer bamboo forests more than paddies or the shade of cedar. I rarely see them on my hikes. Always good to be aware though...