I found a queen snake in the grass a few minutes ago. On my way to turn on the watering hose at the wellhead, I looked down and there it was. Queen snakes don't get very large. A two-footer would (please excuse my silliness) be a king-sized queen. This one was about 18-inches long, still a good length for the species.
The snake was about midways across an open but shady portion of the yard beyond the deck and downstream of the cottage. As it said, when I spotted it, the queen snake was smack in the middle of the grass patch, maybe a foot from my foot. I think we were both momentarily startled. Not that queen snakes are in the least threatening. On the contrary, they are quite docile natured. But having spent plenty of time in various parts of the country where snakes can be a problem, and being—I thought—accustomed to always watching my step, it's a shameful oversight to allow any snake-in-the-grass to get the drop on me—a blunder made all the more mortifying by the fact that what grass there was was short, sparse, dry, and struggling to survive in the near-100˚F heat. Which was why I intended to do some watering. That snake couldn't have been any more visible on the middle of the kitchen table.
On the snake's part, I expect it was just hoping this large and obviously oblivious creature heading its way wouldn't trample it unintentionally.
The queen snake and I each remained calm. As I had my camera in hand (no, I don't water while toting my camera; I intended to place it out of harm's way atop the nearby picnic table) I made a shot, thinking I'd do a better job once I took care of that well valve. But when I got back, the snake was nowhere to be found. What I did find, however, about fifty feet away, was a second queen snake—this one no more than 6–8 inches long and the diameter of a pencil. A juvenile.
Queen snakes are aquatic, spending almost the entirety of their lives in or close-to water, where their primary food source is crayfish. Yes, the river was no more than 35 feet away from where I found the bigger snake, and perhaps 60–70 feet distant from the second, smallest one. Still that's well beyond the bank, on very dry ground, in an environment totally different than their usual hunting bailiwick. Which, of course, begs the question…why?
Two queen snakes in the yard, well away from water, is not coincidence but pattern. There's a reason I found them where I did. What is it? I have a theory—but I want to know. On the face of it, you might think such questions don't matter. Why care? Yet in the scheme of things, what does matter if not answers to such riddles? To not care is to find the message of earth and life—and ultimately, ourselves—inconsequential. Caring is what makes us human. Questions lead to answers, answers to knowledge, knowledge to understanding.
I care to understand…and understand to care.