I’m not sure many people are going to identify with this, but I lost a friend today. Not a human friend. Not even a mammal friend… but a little snake. He felt masculine to me, and so I named him Otisssss. He lived in and around our pond for five years and I came to look forward to his little face (not unlike that of a puppy, truly), peaking out from under a moss-covered rock at the side of our pond, his head just above water, or his beautiful, sleek and enchanting body lying out on one of the rocks, catching the sun, just basking. So still. So unthreatening, despite what we’ve all been taught.
I’ve been dreaming about snakes the last few nights. Not the sweet Otissss kind, but scary snakes, all fang and fear. I know that’s a transformation thing… just as I know the shed skins I’ve found the last few years were Otissss’s transformation. I keep one of his shed skins in a tissue-lined box. What a frightening thing that must have been for him, this shedding of everything that housed him, that held him.
Dream and experience. Yes, but I didn’t expect it all to come together in this way.
This morning, My Best Beloved took the Rescuepoo out in the back garden to do what dogs do, and then called to me.
“You need to come out here. I found something. Look. Do you think that’s Otissss?”
On the stones of our terrace lay a soft little body. The rain was coming down in buckets. The snake was still. Oh, shit, I thought. Drowned? No, that couldn’t be. Otissss loved to swim in our pond, catching bugs.
“No,” I said. “That’s not Otissss. It’s another snake. I think it’s dead. Maybe a hawk dropped it.” I turned away. I didn’t want it to be.
My Best Beloved picked him up and took him to our burying place. It’s at the edge of the Wild Wood, that liminal space of spirits and grace. I would have done buried him, but My Best Beloved said he wanted to, that he couldn’t think of any other appropriate way. My Best Beloved had, after all, found him. So he buried the little one. He put sage down and left the elegant, poetic little body to the care of Herne and Elen-of-the-Ways, and to All-that-Is.
I didn’t want it to be Otissss. I denied it was Otisss. Of course, it was Otissss. My friend.
The weather has been so awful… by this time, Otissss ought to have eaten enough to sustain him through the winter, and then found a lovely little burrow (I think his was beneath our butterfly bush) and slept a deep sleep until spring.
This winter, however, if you can call it that, has been terrible for the wee things. Not cold enough to hibernate. Not warm enough to bring food. And so, Otissss died. Starved, I fear. Oh, that hurts.
I ought to be all right with that. I believe in the cycle of life and death. I hope I will accept my own death with equanimity when it comes. Still, this feels all wrong, and I can’t help thinking that Otissss came out to lay on the terrace in order to ask for our help, as so many other animals have done over the years. And I didn’t notice him, nor did I have any help to give.
All day, I’ve been saying… I don’t know why this hurts so much. A snake. A little snake. When I think about children dying in wars, or starvation; when I think about those being kept away from our borders by violence and racism and ignorance… in cages… Oh, wait, maybe I do see what Otissss, in his life and death was trying to tell me:
Even though you might have been afraid of me, I never wanted that. I only wanted to live, and I am grateful for your hospitality. Don’t be afraid of me. I never meant you harm.
I lost a friend today. Just a little snake I named Otissss. He taught me that all the world’s connected, and every single sentient being matters, matters, matters.