We have a snake living in our compost pile. It’s not really a compost pile. We have chickens, and therefore no compost. And we don’t even throw compost any where near this particular pile, but I don’t know what else to call it. It’s a composite of many materials: branches, moldy hay, an ancient. brown Christmas tree, thriving mint plants, struggling squash vines, dirty shavings from the guinea pig/mouse cages, weeds. It’s an all-purpose dumping area and there’s space for both dead things and living things. And a benign garter snake who can make himself seem dead and then explode into a thing very much alive.
Sometimes a child will catch the snake. I don’t know how they accomplish this; two of them are unafraid of most of the world and have no qualms about reaching down toward a long slithery creature and clasping its tail between their fingers. They try to get me to hold it. I refuse. I like snakes, but I’m not fond of the way they move.
The snake requires nothing of me but tolerance. I find this refreshing. In a home where the mouths are many and gaping, one that catches its own food is welcome. I imagine the snake as a guardian serpent, like in a children’s book. He watches over our comings and goings and when we are all tucked into our house, safe and warm and dry and mostly content, he sighs the sigh of a job well done and curls onto himself for a nap. His task is done for another day. In the house I am sighing the same sigh as we all settle down for the night. Small bodies are clad in cotton PJs, the dishes are stacked in the drainer, the television is quiet. My job is done for another day. Goodnight moon, goodnight children, goodnight snake.