Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wounded


The president of my board of directors - a man I respect, admire and count as a friend - asked me to prepare a photo essay of 10 properties located adjacent to my natural area preserve that our land trust could potentially acquire for conservation in the future should money become available.  He wanted me to prepare the essay for presentation at a board meeting.  His "simple" request touched off two weeks of intensive work during which I had to photograph the properties and then prepare a PowerPoint presentation of my findings.  (My board president was very satisfied with the result.)

Our natural area preserve is embedded in a very suburbanized landscape.  The protected area is bounded by a network of old, narrow colonial-era roads, some of which bear a lot of traffic.  In a few instances I felt like I was taking my life in my hands as I stood on the verge of a road during rush hour (the light was best at that time of day) taking a picture with semis roaring by at 45 mph a few feet away.

Some of the roads were less heavily traveled, though, and I could be more leisurely with my photography.  On one of these roads, as I was nearing the end of my photo shoot, I looked down and saw a small garter snake coiled up at the edge of the pavement.  I nudged the snake but it didn't move; it was stiff, attracting flies and clearly dead.  But it wasn't obviously squashed.  I didn't straighten out its lifeless body, but I suspect that it had been mortally injured by a passing vehicle and had coiled into this incredibly tight ball in its death throes.
I drive this road frequently, and it just as easily could have been my car that dealt the fatal blow as any other.  I imagined this snake's misery as it died as reflected in its final configuration and was overwhelmed by sadness.

9 comments:

packrat said...

I know that feeling of sadness, Scott; it stems, I believe, from awareness of what Albert Schweitzer called the "will-to-live."

He said, "Ethics consist in my experiencing the compulsion to show to all will-to-live the same reverence as I do my own. A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives. If I save an insect from a puddle, life has devoted itself to life, and the division of life against itself has ended. Whenever my life devotes itself in any way to life, my finite will-to-live experiences union with the infinite will in which all life is one."

Mark P said...

I hate to see this kind of stuff, and I see it a lot on the roads near us. There are some drivers who actually intend to run over snakes, and are proud to tell you about it. Of course, we see more than snakes -- possums, armadillos, even deer. And I hate seeing all of them.

1st Man said...

And the sadness echoes here. Such a shame...

Grizz………… said...

I sometimes wonder how many small, unnoticed things I take out during mundane drives. I hope not many.

Scott said...

Packrat: Thank you for sharing Albert Schweitzer's thoughts. They reflect my own perfectly, but he was more articulate than I.

robin andrea said...

Such a touching post. You capture what I often feel whenever we drive into town. The other day it was two dead squirrels and a dead fawn. Seriously heartbreaking sights. I love Albert Schweitzer's quote. So glad to read that. I keep a jar and postcard out on the counter at all times. I capture all the living things I find that are miserably trapped in the house and put them all outside. We save everything we can, including bugs in the puddles.

Scott said...

Mark: Eastern Box Turtles are in decline throughout their range. I heard a report on the radio a few months ago about researchers who were investigating causes of mortality, and they determined that a very significant percentage of the turtles were killed while crossing roads by drivers who intentionally swerved in order to hit them. Sick.

When Kali and I visited the Arkansas Ozarks a few years ago, we stopped and ferried 33 Box Turtles across roads when we saw them on the pavement; we called ourselves the Turtle Rescue Team.

Scott said...

1st Man and Grizz: Maybe I'm a softie, but I just can't help feeling terrible about the small deaths all around me.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: Kali and I capture all living things in the house and put them outside, too. The other day, Kali reported that she captured a fairly large spider in her office and carried it outside (much to the consternation and amazement of her female student assistants).

I keep a large water-filled "dog bowl" behind the house so that the turkeys, racoons, squirrels, and songbirds have a place to drink and bathe. I often find an insect caught in the surface film and always lift it to safety.