Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practice writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a Horse, a book, stairs – and today The Scales. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment. Join me?
“Is it David Africa?” my boy asks.
“No,” I reply. “The man is called David Attenborough, and the program is about Africa.”
We watch the camera zoom in on the dense forest leaves. There is a movement, the pattern of scales, the flicker of a tongue.
“Oh, a snake!” I explain. “A sneaky snake, hiding in the leaves.”
It is a massive python, the type that could crush a man to death.
The snake advances slowly, smugly, knowing its power. It stops to bask in the crack of sunlight. I cannot watch it without feeling some wariness, a revulsion. The cold eyes. It is the villain of the jungle.
“Maybe it’s waiting to attack a smaller creature,” I explain.
But it isn’t. Being cold-blooded, the snake is slowly warming herself up until her body temperature is dangerously high, at 40 degrees or so, before slinking off to coil around her papery eggs, to keep them warm. I have to reassess, to begrudgingly award this monster some degree of sympathy. We are both mothers, we sacrifice ourselves for our children. She does this repeatedly, daily, the same ritual, moving slowly into the sun, and then back to the shade of the nest.
I wonder how to explain it to my toddler. His literary world is one of clear heroes and enemies. How do you narrate the stories of predators and nurturers when sometimes they are one and the same?
“She’s hatching her babies,” I tell the boy.
And sure enough, they come out: gleaming, flickery things. Their Vaseline-slick skin contrasts with the hardened scales of their mother.
The narrator’s voice tells us that most of these baby snakes will be food for bigger predators and she has already outlived many other of her children. The scales encase a creature of power, of endurance; their rough hardness declaring her ability to survive. Is she Satan? Is she me? I stare again, but I don’t know how to see her.
Over to you:
- Can you relate to the messiness of not knowing how to ‘see’ some people in the world?
Thanks so much for all the lovely comments and great video links. I really appreciate them! I am still in the middle of an ME relapse, and feeling like I’m not getting enough oxygen. But I’m resting and relatively peaceful, and feeling buoyed up by prayers. Being able to write this today was a real treat. Look out for Genevieve telling her God and Suffering story tomorrow and Jeff Goins on Weds.
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