Friday, September 2, 2016

Seeking warmth #phenology

Yesterday, for the first time this Summer, we think, we saw a live gopher snake. It was warming itself on the garage floor. Earlier this week, two other young gopher snakes, each unfortunately dead, were lying on the gravel road in front of the house. I presume they were run over while sunning themselves in a much more hazardous location than our garage floor, although, if I hadn't noticed it while putting out the trash and recycling, I could have heedlessly backed over the one on the floor by the garage door.

adult gopher snake sunning on road
adult gopher snake sunning on road
Photo by J. Harrington

Shorter days, cooler nights make reptiles seek ways to keep warm. Gopher snakes are noted for their habit of sunning themselves on warm roads. Personally, I'd much rather have gopher snakes than pocket gophers, despite the fact that, shortly after we moved into our house, a fully grown gopher snake in the garage startled the hell out of me. I suppose, nature being as it is, if we didn't have gophers, we wouldn't have gopher snakes, despite living in prime habitat (Anoka Sand Plain) and having lots of other prey, especially mice which have now started their annual efforts to migrate into the house for the Winter, the snakes could feed on. The signs of Autumn's imminent dominance continue to increase.

young of year gopher snake on garage floor
young of year gopher snake on garage floor
Photo by J. Harrington

As I picked up the snake from the garage floor to show it to the Better Half and then release it out of harm's way on the leaf covered, wooded edge of the drive, I remembered my younger days when I would, from time to time, capture a garter snake on my walk home from school. On a good day, I'd remember to release it before arriving home. Other times, I'd forget and leave it in my coat pocket for my poor, beleaguered mother to discover as she checked my pockets before hanging the garment in the front hall. My solution was to remember to always carry one of my socks as a capture bag. Mom didn't really find that satisfactory but probably decided it was less trouble than home schooling me.

?

is only something on which to hang
your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep
in the grass; the umbrella by the door;

the black swan guarding the pond.
This ? has trouble in mind: do not ask
why the wind broods, why the light is so unclean.

It is summer, the rhetoric of the field,
its yellow grasses, something unanswerable.
The dead armadillo by the roadside, indecent.

Who cares now to recall that frost once encrusted
the field? The question mark—cousin to the 2,
half of a heart—already has begun its underhanded inquiry.


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