Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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.