Quickness at Fifty
While walking on the trail recently, a little garter snake slithered onto my path. I don’t dislike snakes, I’m just uncomfortable with the way they introduce themselves. Instantly I found myself at the crossroads of progress and fear.
I’m middle-aged. I’ve lost the desire to work my body like a foot soldier and fail to give a shit what people think of my aging skin. Why work out when a long-sleeved shirt and Spanx create the illusion that you have? Because of this, I do the minimum necessary to ensure I can carry my groceries to my car without embarrassing myself and drive a clutch without pulling a hammy.
So when Mr. Slither’s tongue detected me a split second (maybe a full second or even two) before my trifocals shared a blurry twig on the move, I reacted.
Actually, I can’t say “I” reacted. It was more like “there was a reaction.” And you can’t call it a reflex. That’s something passed down from Neanderthals who roamed the earth and, when a feat of strength was required to survive, grunted instinctively.
Mine was closer to an “oink.” I felt it more than I heard it. Thank God I was alone—except for my dog, a six-pound, self-professed pack of terror who had already trotted past because a foot-long snake is no more a threat to her than a foot-long hotdog. As it should be.
Before it had fully registered that a serpent was ready to coil, that oink initiated a gawky, uncoordinated reaction drawn from a dusty synapse somewhere in my nervous system that’s not yet clogged with my child’s overuse of Axe body spray. Without my involvement, extremities twisted, stopped me in my tracks and froze all thought until the little striped demon did an about face and reconsidered his destination for afternoon tea.
I don’t know if I’d be able to lift a car off a driver at the scene of a crash but I’d taken enough B vitamins that day to lift a thigh parallel to the ground without an aspirin. It wasn’t a burpee but it was adequate, and at my age, that’s reason to celebrate.
When I had my child, I learned early on that a level head was preferable to every reaction my husband ever had. As such, it didn’t take long to replace adrenalin with reason. Years later, my adrenals are like my post-menopausal ovaries—benign. And when a snake takes form in my peripheral vision, it’s not an adrenalin rush. It’s more like witnessing that “I’m gonna hurl” look on your child’s face and innately reaching for anything that resembles a container, even if that’s your purse, only because buying a new wallet is preferable to cleaning puke from a seat crevice.
My point is, it wasn’t adrenalin that saved me from stepping on a snake. It was a reaction I call “you’re fucking kidding me.”
I’ve been told that encountering a snake, even in dreams, is a sign of kundalini. That’s a fancy word for spirit. All I know is, after I encounter one, I definitely feel alive.
Note to the universe: one snake is enough.