Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The oncoming moon

Aqueduct Road and Lower Horse Meadow tonight. As I finished up down through the meadow, the full moon rose in a saddle of the ridge that leads to the top of Williams Butte, a sway that looks just like a horse's back.

I'm sorry to continue going on, like a kook, about snakes, but c'est la vie: Starting out on Aqueduct Road this evening, I passed a white truck--a couple of hunters with, in no particular order, their compound bow and a black dog in their laps. Didn't think a thing of it, until, returning, I leaped, in my usual awkward and compulsive way, over a garter snake in the road, yellow stripes down its dark back.

The sun was gone--no snake in its right mind would be lying exposed. Sure enough, and sadly, it seemed gone. I was sure it was the truck that had run over it. It was still warm, though cold-blooded, like a rock cooling off after dusk.

I squatted by the little snake, perhaps a foot-and-a-half long, resting my elbows on my knees. Then, with a finger, I felt it, pushing one of its curves, gently. There was no stiffness in it, just residual life, the twitch of nerves. So as if drawing pictures or patterns in the sand, I puppeteered for a moment--I don't know why--pushing the snake forward in curves, allowing it to crawl one last time. It was playful and solemn, like the best of ceremonies I think, and it made me happy to imagine I could help it go where ever it was going.

At last, I made to lift it off the road--and, it yawned. It opened is tiny jaws, each like a fingernail, as wide as they would go, nearly 180 degrees. I wondered if it, still alive within, somewhere, though not on our plane, was remembering the last cricket or blind, newborn vole it took from the grass. Weirdly, I almost wanted to give it my finger--let it clamp down harmlessly, soothingly at the last. But I did not. It was not a gasp, just a yawn before a long, early hibernation. Or a waking? I moved it off the road--and it yawned, again. The final stretch, I thought. I watched it, for another moment, but it didn't move again.

When I finally uncoiled from my squat and went on with run, I would find that I was stiffer, colder, too. But beforehand, high in the blue above us, a raven called out. Perhaps the bird--a mere black dot, overhead--would find this garter in the morning, and to help, I coiled it in a corkscrew, turning it into an artful eye that would find the raven and the sun lifting over Mono Lake. Or the oncoming moon.

10 mi, 69 min; O+B on Aqueduct Road across Williams Butte, as well as Lower Horse Meadow

Monday, 8/23: 10 mi, 70 min; loop around Dechambeau Ranch from Mono City

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