Tag Archives: snakes

Deadfall Meadows

I’m currently staying at my daughter Pippin’s place in far-northern California. Her family lives at about 4,000 ft., but my first day here we took a drive and then a hike that brought us near Mt. Eddy and to an elevation over 7,000 ft., at Deadfall Meadows.

The meadows stretch up the mountain around Deadfall Creek, which fills Upper, Middle and Lower Deadfall Lakes. Thousands of butterflies seemed to be accompanying us through those meadows; we especially were taken with the small pale lavender-blue ones that gave the impression of flower petals fluttering in the breeze.

Actual wildflowers were even more abundant. I am sharing here fewer than half of the ones that we admired and usually tried to identify, or confirm the identity of.

Scarlet Gilia
Blue-eyed Grass
Bigelow’s Sneezeweed

As we hiked I was only using my phone to take pictures or use the Seek app, and I never checked the time. We had left the house before 9:00 and when we got back to the car with our hiking all done, it was after 4:00, which was to me completely shocking.

Jamie in particular felt the length of the day; he always says that he doesn’t mind hiking, it’s his legs that do not like it. He’s seven years old and is amazingly chipper even when droopy, or lying down on the trail.

Our goal was the largest Deadfall Lake, the Middle one. We sat on the shore for an hour eating our snacky lunch and cooling our feet.

A water snake streaked out from the rocks in the direction of my feet, but when he got a few inches away and had a good look, it took him a split second to shift into reverse and swim back into his hiding place. After poking his head out and looking at the more beautiful members of the family, he posed briefly for Pippin and eventually left the area altogether for deeper waters.

White Marsh Marigold

Some people ride horseback on this trail, and muck it up into mudholes in the many places where the path crosses the creek. On our way back down scores of little butterflies were drinking at the mud.

The pale lavender-blue ones are likely blues, coppers or hairstreaks. There are more than six dozen species in those three categories in California, so Pippin read to me when we later tried to narrow down the identity of the particular ones that day. We had to wait until the end of the trail to get a good view, when Ivy was given permission to catch a butterfly while it was focused on its refreshment.

Not long after our encounter with the drinking butteries, we were back at the parking lot and driving home. We had only hiked about three miles, but at our mostly meandering rate necessitated by those with cameras and short legs, and much trekking uphill, it had taken most of the day — a beautifully satisfying day.

Seep Monkeyflower

Looking at snakes.

Having two boys of my own, and eleven grandsons, I have done my share of reading to them books about snakes, a topic on which I probably would never have read one word if left to myself. I’m so accommodating. Last week I even read many pages of a giant book about dinosaurs.

That book mysteriously appeared in my house a year or more ago and I didn’t pay much attention to it until Scout asked me to read it last week. It may have been the most boring read-aloud I have ever agreed to, and finally I said I’d had enough. After he went to bed I threw it in the trash.

Snakes are more interesting, I admitfree-green-snake-wallpaper-hd-wallpaper, because they live on the earth with us and can be observed as they really are. But still….

I sat with the grandchildren twice last week to read the snake book that is in our home library, and I re-learned several things about the reptiles. Doubtless I will re-forget most of the facts we read, too, as I always have done, even when my brain was younger and more flexible. I have read stuff like this for so many years: “Would you believe that a python can swallow a whole goat?…The snake doesn’t chew or swallow the way we do. It simply moves its body forward with its jaws wide open and ‘walks’ the animal down its throat.”

When I imagine this scene, or look at pictures of it, I think about how the snake itself is consumed by the task of consuming. Even the egg-eater, who takes only 15 minutes to finish the job and spit out the shell, can’t go anywhere or sleep or drink water, for the duration. The beautiful green flying snake can’t sense a hawk threat and take off like a spring to escape.

After Scout had gone home I came across a poem about the way a snake eats, and I started reading it with the idea of someday sharing it with him. But when I got to the last stanzas I realized that it was for me, much more than for a snake-fascinated boy. Through this poem’s impact, what I learned of snakes I won’t be forgetting. It might take a python a few hours to eat a goat. My portion is of a different calibration and I only know that I’ll be at it a while.


I watched a snake once, swallow a rabbit.
Fourth grade, the reptile zoo
the rabbit stiff, nose in, bits of litter stuck to its fur,

its head clenched in the wide
jaws of the snake, the snake
sucking it down its long throat.

All throat that snake—I couldn’t tell
where the throat ended, the body
began. I remember the glass

case, the way that snake
took its time (all the girls, groaning, shrieking
but weren’t we amazed, fascinated,

saying we couldn’t look, but looking, weren’t we
held there, weren’t we
imagining—what were we imagining?)

Mrs. Peterson urged us to move on girls,
but we couldn’t move. It was like
watching a fern unfurl, a minute

hand move across a clock. I didn’t know why
the snake didn’t choke, the rabbit never
moved, how the jaws kept opening

wider, sucking it down, just so
I am taking this in, slowly,
taking it into my body:

this grief. How slow
the body is to realize.
You are never coming back.

–Donna Masini, from Turning to Fiction