Sneaky snake

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?


Scala - Ball Python 74

“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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22 Responses to Sneaky snake

  1. Amy Young 22nd January, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    The year of the snake will soon be here in China! So, we’re gearing up to decorate with snakes :). Tanya, glad for an update on YOU!

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      Thanks, Amy – lovely to see you!

  2. Diana Trautwein 22nd January, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    So sorry for the relapse, Tanya! But this writing? Superb. Really glad you put it out for us to read and hope it didn’t deplete your already limited store of energy.

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      Thank you so much for the affirming words – it means such a lot!

  3. Melissa 22nd January, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Oh WOW. Yes…I struggle with how to see people…usually myself. Monster and Saint all in one. Thanks for this write…I loved it!

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

      Me too, me too! I’m so glad you liked it 🙂

  4. Ashley @ Draw Near 22nd January, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Oooh, this was so good. I struggle against the desire for an either/or when some things — like what you describe here — are really a both/and. I love the nuances, the questions, the sitting without the answers that you paint here. So glad to be writing with you again at Amber’s. Blessings all over you.

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      And blessings all over you too! I always love connecting with you!

  5. Mi 21st January, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    Dear Tanya
    I am so glad you were able to write this post today!! I know how limited our cognitive abilities can be with a relapse! Praying for you, my friend, everyday! Hang in there, dear one! Thank you for using some of your spoons to write these words.
    Much love to you

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Thank you – it felt like a real gift to be able to write. X

  6. Janice 21st January, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    It was a treat to read too. I do love these concrete words posts.

    I was just thinking about a story I’m writing and how one of the villains is very much like this, which is why I like him so much. He’s dangerous but he also has great streaks of goodness in him. There’s something so very human in being able to cause so much pain but also to sacrifice so much for those helpless ones we love.

    Although I admit I’m having trouble really embracing the baby snakes as something to feel love for! (shudder.)

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

      Thank you so much!
      And – hold the phone! – you’re writing fiction?? Why did I not know this? I need to know more!
      I think people who can write fiction are fully amazing. I scrape by with making up short stories to a two year old, but that’s about the limit…

      • Janice 26th January, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

        Tanya, I’m over the moon happy to see you responding to comments. I know you probably still aren’t feeling great, but every time I see that you’ve written I feel a little happy because I’ve been missing you and hoping you’re improving. And just for the record I can not think clearly right now because the baby is crying his head off to get out of his crib.

        I’ll send you an email sometime about the fiction. It’s fun and draining and such a big project that I have no time to work on so it’s both lovely and frustrating and overwhelming. But I do love it anyway. 🙂

        • Tanya 2nd February, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

          🙁 about your baby crying
          🙂 about the rest!

  7. littlemisshugs 21st January, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    Interesting post, my Curate upset me a lot last weekend…do I now see her as the enemy, someone to be angry at and to turn my back on, or do I submit to her leadership, or do I go to her and find once again my friend who cares very much about me. Difficult one at the moment, but certainly something to keep thinking over.

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Oo – that’s exactly the kind of situation I was thinking of with my question at the end. It’s so hard to hold these things in tension, especially if we’re hurting… Much love to you.

  8. Charity Erickson 21st January, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Gorgeous and haunting. I’m going to think on this one for awhile. Prayers are with you, Tanya.

    • Tanya 26th January, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      Haunting is one of my very favourite writing compliments. THANK YOU!

      (You meant haunting in a good way, right??) xx

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