Name Game Angst

My sis has a penchant for naming things. She has done this for years now. Aside from the obvious— such as one supremely wonderful son and pets— she assigns special names with a certain creative expertise to trees, flowers and plants, animal life, insect life, cars, and stuffed animals. In effect, she names most animate and inanimate objects in her immediate world. It’s brought a lot of fun to our lives. Seriously. So much so that I’ve started naming things as well, although I’m nowhere near as creative and prolific in scope as my adorable sis. My best effort —with the exception of my children—has been naming cars. I’ve just handed “Goldie” off after a nearly nine-year relationship to welcome “Sylvie.” She shares garage space with Rocket-man’s car, “Fritz.” I’ve got a few pet names for my pet (The Poodle), other than his official name and of course I’ve got a few endearing names for Rocket-man (most recently, we’ve been calling him “Duck” but that’s another silly story altogether!). Still, with this name game, I’m not so good at naming plush toys, plants and other such things. Call me a work in progress.

So the other day I was ironing (yes…ironing) in the kitchen area. It’s a never-ending chore that I particularly despise…nonetheless, it’s a chore that must get done. I do try to make it pleasurable by watching a movie or something on Netflix. So, as I laid a freshly pressed pair of shorts into the laundry basked I just happened to take a casual glance out the window.

And there it was….

A snake.

The current object of my angst....

The current object of my angst….

Just beneath the crawl space vent under landscaping edging liner…right by the water spigot. The very spigot that I go to every day in order to water the patio plants.

My stomach immediately lurched. My heart began racing.

OKAY. So it was a rat snake. They’re supposed to be the “good” snakes, eating frogs, mice, and other rodents. Pish-Posh I say. I make no apologies in my declaration that there is no such thing as a “good” snake.

I ran to grab my camera. I took several shots but through glass and window screen the images didn’t turn out very well. I watched the snake for a good five minutes.  It looked liked it was trying to crawl up the side of the house; It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon for goodness sake…and very hot out.  Isn’t it supposed to be under a rock somewhere?!   It’s forked tongue constantly flicking in and out made me sick to my stomach. When it opened it’s mouth completely—as in unhinging its jaws—It was the personification of pure evil to me.

Folks, I’m going to be a mess of angst over this snake hanging out underneath my kitchen window. It doesn’t help that just last week my neighbor Emily down the street found a snake in her house.

Let me repeat that….


Not the garage mind you. One could reasonably expect to find a snake in the garage given that the garage door is often left open for a spell. But this fellow was well into the house. In the sewing room to be precise. Fortunately (or unfortunate, from the snakes point of  view) that snake found itself in one pickle of a predicament; It got stuck to a sticky pad trap that Emily had set in a corner for a suspected mouse. Finding a snake instead was quite a shock to her (and to me as well!). I cannot get the image of a snake slithering around the house out of my head. I haven’t slept a wink since she told me.

So I called my sis to tell her about my snake. She knows that snakes have been on my mind a lot lately, to include in my dreams—or should I say, nightmares! My brother-in-law knows this too. He’s tried to calm my fears by saying that snake dreams can be positive, suggesting healing, rebirth, resolving issues and ultimately, freedom.

Hmm. I’m not quite sure what to make of that!

As I place the call to my sis, the snake begins to move out from underneath the black plastic landscaping liner and it’s full length comes into view. Yikes! It looks to be about three and a half feet long. I hurriedly message a photo of the snake to my sis.

Sis is indeed sympathetic as I become a border-line purple minion. And yet….as I unload my escalating fear and anxiety upon her she sweetly says: “You should name her.”

That jolts me momentarily from my anxiety-induced nausea.

“Are you kidding?” was my reply.

She wasn’t kidding. “Really…she’s kinda cute. And she’s not poisonous. You should name her Petunia.”

I AM NOT NAMING A SNAKE!” I tell her, a bit too forcefully perhaps.  (Sorry sis…I do love you so….but the name game stops at snakes!)

“But why not?” sis asks, pressing the point of the subject at hand’s cuteness.

“I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. And besides, if I name this snake then, for me, it implies a relationship of sorts.  It is NOT my pet.”

So, while we went on about THE SNAKE, it slithered off, around the corner of the house.  I stood at the window for what seemed like an eternity waiting for it to return.

This was a week ago folks. I am now borderline obsessed about all things slithering and a good night’s sleep has eluded me since.  It was a huge mistake to read an article about a Copperhead in a woman’s car—just inches away from her face—as she drove on an interstate in North Carolina (miraculously, she made it out of the car without being bit!). And, It was an even bigger mistake to read about Copperheads, upwards of sixteen or more, arriving en masse, at night… on a freshly mowed lawn, in order to dine on cicadas at the base of an oak tree. Turns out this is a common phenomenon!  You don’t believe me?  Here’s the link:

I shall never walk on my lawn at night again. Better yet…I think I’d like to move to the North Pole. I’d rather suffer from frostbite than a snake encounter.

Since last week, I must look out that kitchen window a hundred times a day expecting to see the snake. There is no bliss in that. But have no fear folks, I did manage to find something to be thankful for just yesterday, while strolling through my Facebook notifications. Friend Jeff had posted a series of photos of his backyard visitor. Thank GOD in heaven I don’t have a gator to contend with!

"George-the-Gator" by Jeffrey Lobaugh

“George-the-Gator” by Jeffrey Lobaugh

I Call Him George

There was a light fog in the air early yesterday morning as I made my way outside.  As usual I had to drag The Poodle out of his bed.  At nearly seven years of age he’s acting like an old stubborn man.

“Come on boy,” I said as I tugged at his collar.  “You need the exercise just as much as I do. Besides,  if I can get you tired enough you won’t be barking at the door half the day as the squirrels dance about the yard with sure intent to torment you.”

Once outside, he perked up immediately.  It was as if a switch had been flipped.  I was glad to see this; it lifted that familiar veil of guilt knowing that my fluffy four-legged love was not miserable from being plucked from his cozy bed.

I decided not to plug in to  music or TED talks on Stitcher this morning preferring the early morning quiet.  I needed to be lost in my thoughts–to think about changes that loom ahead– or, at least focus on my surroundings.  Mind you, it’s not as if we have spectacular vistas where I live. It’s quite an ordinary neighborhood…and down the hill from my house it’s positively boring.  There is one tiny red bridge next to a man-made pond to provide visual interest.  Woo-hoo…right? Nothing like my Southern California days with daily dolphin sightings, or the beauty of the Palos Verdes peninsula, or even people watching at the beach.

In fact, my daily walks here have grown a bit tedious because of the same old view.  As of late I’m even envying my old boss Jeff…the guy I purposefully refer to as “Sir.”  Sir lives in South Carolina, just a stone’s throw –if that–from the beach.  He frequently posts stunning photos on Facebook of his two Corgi’s frolicking on the beach.  And not a week goes by that he doesn’t post a spectacular sunrise or sunset photo.  Or a photo capturing the beautiful flora and fauna of where he lives or wherever his travels take him to.  In truth, Sir is an immensely talented photographer.  That’s his passion when he’s not working the daily grind in the tech industry.  That I know of, two of his photographs have graced the pages of USA Today newspaper. Every once in a while I check out one of the galleries he posts to, pbase to see if he’s added anything new.   I’m wowed every time.  But now, in the last month or so, Sir has been sharing truly amazing photos on Facebook from his own neighborhood…in essence, right off his back door step.  He’s got an alligator in his back yard.  Yes….an alligator….and from the photos, he looks to be a very large alligator!

“George” the Gator!
Jeffrey Lobaugh, Photographer

To clarify, the gator is not a pet (at least I don’t think so) but said gator seems to love hanging out just outside of Sir’s fenced-in yard.   The Corgi’s cannot possibly be happy about this.  Or, perhaps it’s just the sort of entertainment they thrive upon.  My poodle would be a barking whirling dervish of black fluff.  It would be impossible to get him to come inside as he’d be entirely deaf to any commands once he laid eyes on the gator.   Those who know me know that I’m not fond of things that crawl about (cooing babies would be the exception of course).  After all, I’ve always got a can of Raid within my reach to deal with nearly daily sightings of scorpions and spiders, big and small.   So it should come as no surprise that I’d be a complete basket case knowing an alligator was within breathing distance of my back door!  Come to think of it, I’ve asked Sir what his wife thinks about their backyard visitor and I’ve yet to receive a satisfactory reply.   Wait….could it be that…

Yikes!  (Panic!) No-no-no!!  Let’s strike that image from my mind…like right now!

Whew. Much better!

In any event, Sir has been posting these spectacular photos of the “little” fella on social media along with humorous commentary.  I call the little fella “George” for no particular reason other than it goes with gator rather well.  Admittedly, despite the fact that I’d be a complete mess of nerves there is something to be said for the “cool factor” of having a gator within feet of one’s back door, don’t you think?!    It’s also quite possibly a deterrent for family or friends visiting, which depending upon how one looks at it, could be a good thing.  In my neck of the woods I have to stretch quite a bit to find something even remotely as exciting off my back door step.  I haven’t even seen a snake on the back patio this year (not that I am complaining).   We’ve got all this construction in the area to thank for that.  Even the deer are fewer in numbers.  And yes, we have a fox that wanders along the back fence sometimes.  And there is that occasional destructive little devil–the armadillo– that, with The Poodle’s help, I have to chase out of the yard with a broom stick.

This morning though,  I happened upon a Great Blue Heron just down the hill in the tiny pond that the housing development refers to as a “lake.”  This cracks me up.  I’m surprised the heron didn’t fly off instantly since I did have The Poodle with me.  Perhaps the light fog momentarily dulled the heron’s senses? For a moment I stood under the weeping willow tree and gazed at the statuesque bird from afar.  He stood tall and stately but there was also an air of sadness about him.  I pondered this for a moment.  I don’t know much about these birds but I thought herons liked to be in large colonies.

“He’s got to be lonely.” I whisper to The Poodle.  Naturally, he’s not one bit interested.  He sees a squirrel and begins pulling in an attempt to run for it.  The movement is enough to scare off the heron.  He takes flight; his large blue-gray wings gracefully lifting him into the air, taking him to the next pond over.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

It’s not nearly exciting as George but there’s a reason for that.

It’s God’s way of protecting me from a heart attack.