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Okay, it was just one snake.  But still.  Snake!

I was swimming my laps this morning, slowly, because I’m still making my way back from that wicked infection that took hold after an injury 2 1/2 weeks ago.  It took me twice the time to swim 2/3 of my usual mile, and I was as winded as if I’d crossed the English Channel.  As I swam, I kept seeing a rustling of something brown out of the corner of my eye on the high diving board, so when I got to the end of my first set of laps I blocked the sun with a hand to get a better look and saw that I was being watched by a large bird of prey.  A hawk of some kind, white-shouldered would be my best guess.

I figured he was resting.  Or maybe he was desperate-hungry and thought my beyond-slow pace in the pool was an indicator of near death, and so was staying close to be first in line for my flesh if I weakened sufficiently.  Or perhaps he was a swim coach in another life, I mused – my freestyle stroke could definitely use some pointers.  It’d be an ironic kind of karma to go from human life as a swim coach to creature of flight in your next life.  I thought about that for awhile – how both lives, the swimming coach and the bird – would be about staring into shades of blue.  (doesn’t take much for a poet’s brain to spiral out on whimsey and what ifs)

I kept swimming.  The hawk kept flying off, then returning; he’d circle a few times and swoop back to perch on the diving board again.  By the time I finished up with my laps he’d moved to the other side of the pool atop the lifeguard stand.  I showered and readied to go, all the while kicking myself for forgetting my phone back on the kitchen counter because I wanted to snap a photo of the hawk and look up its coloring later.  I walked to the end of the pool to retrieve my goggles – and that’s when I saw it – an orange-red streak, outlined in black, swishing against the bottom of the pool.  The snake that I’d been swimming with.

I do not like snakes.

Speaking of kicking myself, the real kicker here is that I always walk around the entire pool before I get in, checking the water for wasps or bees floating on the surface.  I’m allergic, so I don’t take any chances.  I usually fish out about a half-dozen half-alive or dead bees/wasps every morning.  Sometimes I save the life of a frog or a cricket.  I actually take care to look for snakes, because my community – all of Dickinson – is shot through with curves of bayou and creeks.  There is a protected watershed area nearby, surrounded with marshland, a veritable haven for snakes.  I know to watch out for snakes, and I did!  But somehow I missed this one.  I guess I didn’t have enough coffee.  Maybe she was lying along one of the thick black lane stripes or curled in the pool filter when I made my ritual circumnavigation of the pool before getting in.  Or maybe she’s just really good at being sneaky.

Ribbon snakes are non-venemous, luckily.  But, again, a snake is a snake.  My insides shudder and shiver like a shallow pan of jello during an earthquake whenever I think about snakes.  Much less see one.  Much less realize that I’ve been swimming with one, for like, an hour.

This particular snake was about 4 feet long, which made me even less “happy” to be in her presence.  But I was a Girl Scout and I still feel that sense of duty to wildlife, regardless of how creepy-crawley or sneaky-snakey that wildlife might be.  I know that ribbon snakes aren’t water creatures by nature, and certainly not chlorinated water creatures.  So I used the l-o-n-g-poled pool net and fished her out, taking care to locate her on the outside of the pool fencing and under some shrubbery, where, I’m hoping, the hawk won’t be able to get at her.


Have I mentioned how much I don’t like snakes?

Anyway, lesson learned.  When being stalked by a large bird of prey – STOP – Look all around!  You are most likely not the prey.  More importantly, the actual prey might not be somebody you wish to be standing near, or sitting by, or swimming with.

Oh, and speaking of missing things, if you’ve somehow missed that I’m riding my recumbent trike in the BikeMS Coastal Challenge, and that I would love Love LOVE your support to help me raise funds and awareness for the National MS Society – you may, if you so desire, read all about it here & here.  And if you’re inspired to lend support, you may go here to donate to my ride!

I’ve been swimming and pedaling, training as best I can in light of recovery from two eye surgeries this summer, and a freak injury, and a wicked infection.  Come what may, I will be in Ventura, California on October 6th & 7th to ride in the Bike MS Coastal Challenge, to represent athletes with disabilities, to raise awareness of adaptive cycling via recumbent trikes, and to make one of my Life List dreams come true ~