I have been awaiting this moment for three years. More accurately, I suppose, I have been dreading this moment my entire life. For no apparent reason, it finally happened today.
I only moved to the "country" 3 years ago after having lived in the city all my life. I am a city girl if there ever was one. I often liken my move to this neck of this woods, to Zsa Zsa Gabor's move from New York City in Green Acres. "Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue."
In West LA we would see an occasional skunk, possum, or maybe a lone coyote from time-to-time. Snakes were never on my radar. Not until I moved to the wild, wild west of Hidden Hills.
When I was looking at houses in Hidden Hills four years ago, I noticed there was odd fencing everywhere. I asked my agent Barbara what it was. "Snakes," she said matter-of-factly. Snakes? Did she say snakes? I must have misunderstood. I am not living anywhere in the vicinity of snakes. I am a city girl and no offense, but I hate snakes.
I bought the house anyway. From that moment on, I lived in denial. I knew snakes of all varieties lived here and enough of them to warrant special fencing on all the homes in the area. However, I told myself that I would never run into one. That was the only way I could go outside, whether for a walk, to get the mail or even more frightening, to garden.
That said, I have lived in fear, almost daily, for the past three years. I talk endlessly about snakes to the kids. I warn them not to go on the hillsides of our property, amongst the plants, for fear there might be snakes there. I watch vigilantly on my walks for snakes and jump at every strange noise. Every time I see a lizard out of the corner of my eye, which is multiple times a day, I imagine that it's a snake.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I am convinced that there is one around every corner. We (the mystery snake and I) are just waiting to cross paths. When I imagine that moment (which I have done way more than would be considered normal), I imagine that I will pass out from shock or die of a heart attack immediately. I realize that sounds melodramatic, but when you have a severe case of snake phobia, which I do, it is more probable than you might think.
That brings us to today. I was at the kitchen table innocently texting Courtenay from my computer about this, that, and the other. We had all just finished our lunches. The kids (three of them anyway) had gone outside to play. Garin was in the kitchen with me, reading his book.
The next thing I know, I heard blood-curdling screams. I heard someone pounding on the front door like they were going to break it down. Then I saw Catherine and Graham running past the windows on the side yard, screaming. I knew something was terribly wrong.
I yelled at Garin to go to the front door to let Miles in, even though I still wasn't sure what was happening. In the meantime, Catherine and Graham arrived at the back door. Graham was the first one in the door. As soon as he could he yelled, "SNAKE!" Oh my god! A snake? What kind of snake? Where is it? Where is Miles? Hurry, get Miles! Run! Everyone was screaming. It was mayhem.
I rushed to the front door, which is glass. Miles was standing outside the door screaming. Garin yelled at him to run, but he stood there frozen. I yelled at him not to run, but rather to back away, which is what I have always heard you are supposed to do when you encounter a snake. We still didn't know exactly where the snake was nor what kind of snake it was. Rattlesnakes are very common here.
Miles backed away, like he was instructed, and came around the side yard and then through the back door to get in. I made Garin look out the front door window to see if he could find the snake because I was too scared. I was screaming and couldn't stop.
I called Courtenay, whom I had just been texting, to tell her what was going on (like she could be of any help from Rhode Island). We quickly called her back on Facetime so she could join our scream-fest, which she willingly did. I think she is more scared of snakes than I am.
Garin finally spotted it. It had slithered into the flower bed right outside the front door. I then got the courage to go and look. God almighty! It's big and black with yellow rings! Help! I started screaming again.
This drama went on for the better part of 15 minutes until it left the flower bed, slithered through the garden and down the front hillside (quite deliberately, I might add). It was as if it had an important appointment and didn't want to be late. We tracked its movements until it was out of sight. I don't think I stopped screaming the entire time.
Once some of the shock and fear wore off, the kids seemed to be having fun recounting the entire scene. They got on the computer and researched the snake, hoping to figure out what kind it was. I texted a few friends who informed me that it was a Kingsnake. Not venomous. Well, there was a bit of good news. Miles and Garin then professed their love and fascination with snakes and asked if they could each have one as a pet. Not so fast.
So you might be wondering how I'm doing after facing one of my biggest fears? Surprisingly well, I am happy to report. I didn't faint, nor drop dead from fear, as I had imagined I would. I did scream a lot, but that was always in my snake-encounter fantasies, so that was to no surprise. I am seriously contemplating giving up gardening after this experience, but I'll wait until I calm down to make that decision.
What I can say is that I don't think the kids will be venturing onto our hillsides anymore without shoes, as I have implored them not to do for years. As the snake slithered away down the front hillside, I was impressed that I still had the presence of mind to turn this into a teachable moment. "How many times have I told all of you that there are snakes on that hillside?! Now, do you finally believe me?!" I saw four heads nod in unison.
I may not sleep tonight, nor the next, but that gratifying moment almost made the entire terrifying experience worth it!
The view from the window next to the front door.
This was taken from the window of the front door, as the snake decided it had enough of my screaming and was going to find a quieter place to hang out.
I wish I had this moment on video as I saw the entirety of the snake, which was about 4 feet long.
This is the snake making its final exit from our view, down the hillside.