Photo: Anne Lawrence, 2021

A Moth and a Snake

All I needed to do was provide a place for her wings to dry. She perched there for about half an hour while I watched her wings gradually fade in color as the water evaporated. She stayed alert, but perfectly still, resting on my hand yesterday morning.

Over the weekend I fell on a rough hiking trail. I tripped on a rock, the kind I’ve hopped over a thousand times, but not this time. I had been walking and just decided to start running again, I scanned the trail ahead and missed the rock at my foot. The first move, the first gathering of the momentum and energy to run was the one that pushed me to the ground when my toe caught. I got up, washed the dust from my hands with my water, checking for any injuries — fine. Noticed the blood on my knee; decided to check that later, so I wouldn’t use all of my water. I ran the rest of the trail, about a mile, trying to feel out my leg. In the next day or so I would understand the injury to my knee and hip; what occupied my mind at the time was the snake across the trail that had interrupted the run in the first place.

When I judged that I couldn’t jump over the light brown snake with dark black and reddish patches or push into the bushes and trees on either side to go around it, I hovered, waiting for someone else to come along. Help arrived. An older couple I’d passed earlier on the trail caught up with me. I explained about the snake. She grabbed rocks and he walked forward with his cane, no hesitation. Between the taps and near jabs and barrage of rocks, the snake retreated. My heroes. I walked behind the couple for a while, then passed them on a set of rough steps on an incline. They were far enough behind that they didn’t see me fall.

Four days after the fall I was still dealing with stiffness and soreness in my hip and knee. I decided to walk around in our outdoor summer pool after a quick run to try to feel better. It’s only three feet deep — perfect as a therapy pool. The water wasn’t even too cold, just right. I’d been walking around, swinging my leg for a while when I noticed the moth. Rather than getting the net, I decide to lift her out with my hand. She twitched her antennae and flickered her legs. Her wings, heavy with water, adhered to my fingers. Carefully, I repositioned her, then transferred her to the other hand where her wings could dry better.

There we stayed. Me, standing in three feet of water, holding a moth out over the edge of the pool, both injured and waiting for time to make us better. I wasn’t sure if the moth was going to survive or die on my hand. I felt responsible since it was my pool. I meant her no harm, same with the snake.

I would never have wanted to hurt the snake. I’m just not good at snake identification: copperhead or Texas rat snake? I’d pick up a garter snake, no problem. But snakes on trails? I usually end up trying to outrun them, feeling a sick pit in my stomach until I’m safely past. This time, I relied on others who clearly had more experience with snakes and were completely fearless. I trust my elders.

This morning, when I saw the moth’s wings were dry, I took her over to a bush. I gently brushed the edge of a wing. In response, she folded them politely, then stepped out onto the leaf in front of her, with a little encouragement. I checked thirty minutes later and she was still there, but after an hour, she was gone. Like the snake retreating, I was absolved. It’s up to them now.

Photo: Anne Lawrence, 2021



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