My Sweet and I have had a visitor this summer. Really, he’s been around long enough that I’ve resigned myself to the fact that he’s not visiting, he’s taken up residence. In fact, we named him because anyone that stays around that long needs to have a name.
We called him Chuck.
He’s not exactly welcome, but he isn’t really unwelcome either. I just prefer to see Chuck from a distance.
Chuck is a snake. A common variety, regular old garter snake but you need to understand that Chuck is a really BIG garter snake. He’s roughly 30” long and about as big around as a quarter. He has taken a liking to the river stones we have around our house and pond. We often see him in the grass near the walkway or sunning himself on the stones by the pond.
When we tell people about Chuck we get some rather extreme reactions to say the least. One friend said she couldn’t believe Chuck hadn’t been ushered off to Snake Heaven. One lady said she’d move – snake for sale, house included. One of my employers said if it were her, Chuck would be a goner and she punctuated her statement with an alarmingly realistic impression of a shotgun being fired! I’m pretty sure my mother is avoiding visiting our house until winter when Chuck will be hibernating somewhere far below the snow.
It started with finding a shed skin in the grass while I was mowing. I figured that the shed skin meant the owner was probably resting somewhere nearby and since I needed to know where (so that I could avoid him) I went looking.
I found him curled up in the rocks lining the old flower beds outside our bedroom window. We’ve been trying to keep a close eye on him ever since, especially since he seemed fairly determined to stay in the yard.
We’ve spotted Chuck lounging in the grass, hiding among the rocks around the pond, and stretched out in the bark mulch lining the boardwalk to the pond. Most alarmingly, I went to enjoy my morning coffee on the patio by the pond one morning but came up short when I spotted Chuck laid out right in the middle of the boardwalk. There was no flipping way I was taking that route anymore, but still determined to have my coffee on the patio, I took the long way around through the grass.
Chuck spent well over an hour sunning himself on the boardwalk. I finished one cup of coffee then went into the house and made a second. Chuck still hadn’t moved, so I took the grassy route yet again. I avoided getting close to him, but I was also determined to enjoy my morning coffee outside on my patio.
I haven’t seen Chuck for a few days now. I think he probably got tired of all the activity in the yard and moved on to a quieter home. I have to admit, I’m a little sorry that he’s gone. I’d gotten quite used to the idea of having him around. Frankly, he was starting to grow on me.
I learned a few things from having Chuck around.
The reactions we got when we told people we had a resident snake are a lot like the reactions we have when we have some kind of problem to deal with. Some people avoid their problems, just like the lady who suggested we move. Some deal with issues head-on with no hesitation, like my shotgun mimicking boss suggested. Others handle their problems by trying to understand every angle and proceeding with caution, like I gave Chuck a wide berth when he was laid out on the boardwalk in my way.
There are many ways to handle difficult issues and problems. Personally, I was happy with the way I was dealing with having Chuck in the yard. I can also tell you that I don’t handle all my problems with such thoughtful consideration. I tend to be a little more reactionary and am usually better than halfway springing to action before I rein myself in (or more often am reminded by My Sweet) to slow down and reconsider. Having Chuck around was good practice for proceeding with caution.
Chuck taught me something else, too.
You see, there’s something about Chuck that I haven’t mentioned. Chuck’s size was impressive, no doubt about it, but if I had turned and ran the other direction I would have missed something important about Chuck that helped me be a little more accepting of him.
Chuck’s lower jaw was twisted completely to the side. It looked like it had been broken at some point and had healed that way. Try as we could, we couldn’t see any spots that looked raw or like the injury was recent. I don’t think Chuck could have bitten me if he had wanted to. Try biting something with just your top teeth – it’s difficult, I know, I checked.
Chuck was just one more living, breathing example in my life of not judging a book by its cover. He reminded me I need to be careful about making assumptions and not to paint all snakes with the same brush. Once I got to spend a little time around Chuck, he was pretty docile, much more interested in hunting worms in the grass than chasing me away from my favourite morning coffee spot.
Chuck taught me to remember that not every problem is as terrifying as it first appears. If I can slow myself down enough to take a second look, really evaluate the danger, likely more times than not, I can just keep an eye on things and not worry too much about the ‘what-if’s’. I don’t have to overthink things and end up magnifying them in my mind. That kind of behaviour never seems productive, it just means I lose sleep. Quite literally, lose sleep. I had imagined Chuck crawling in through our ground level bedroom window and dropping in on our heads. Tell me you wouldn’t lose sleep over that image too. I had to be reminded that our bedroom window is never open and has a screen over it anyway.
Maybe having Chuck show up and stay for a while has been a good thing. It’s been a good reminder to think before I react and honestly, I could use that reminder from time to time.