This entry is part 17 of 29 in the series Conversari


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This almost belongs in the Manual series, but for the fact that I didn’t write it. The text, and the object to which it refers, came from the pen and knitting needles of Rachel Rawlins, and you can see both at twisted rib. While there, you can click on the conversari tag and browse her half of our on-going, inter-blog conversation in words and images, originating in more quotidian exchanges via email, IM, etc.: one of those sprawling conversations that just keeps sprouting new, sometimes grotesque branches and digressions, grows ever more firmly rooted, and seems as if it might go on forever.

I shot the footage of the garter snake ball yesterday morning, while rushing back and forth between the houses to bake bread. (A mention made it into the Morning Porch, whence, curiously, Luisa also derived the image of a heart.) I felt I had to make the film fairly abstract, since I already made a videopoem with more straight-forward footage of a garter snake mating ball two years ago. On that occasion, I also uploaded an 8-minute video of the orgy. This time, I grabbed my regular camera and managed to get one half-decent still photo:

garter snake mating ball

It was a thing of beauty, albeit hair-raising as always. Incidentally, I’ve probably said this before, but our robust garter snake population in Plummer’s Hollow is, I think, a direct consequence of our decision to stop mowing the lawns. If you like reptiles and amphibians and want to encourage them around your own home, the best thing you can do is transition to a less-managed landscape. Call it Daoist gardening if you like.

Garter snakes usually form mating balls immediately after emergence from hibernation in spring, but sometimes they mate in the fall, too. The great American poet Stanley Kunitz wrote about encountering one such coupling — “that wild braid” — in his iconic poem “The Snakes of September.”

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8 Replies to “Heart”

    1. Thanks. I know that footage is bound to gross out some, but it certainly gave me a new angle on a subject, love, that otherwise would seem almost played out in poetry.

  1. Grotesque? Um… oh yes, ok. Flayed roadkill. That would qualify.

    I loved Luisa’s Cusp when I saw it in the morning, little realising there would be all this heartysnakeness (snakeyheartness?) to come. It’s beautiful.

  2. here’s a fact or two: the ball of garter snakes contains only one female with the males all jockeying for position. She emerges and they all rush her, she moves and they all move with her. It’s nice to think that not mowing helps the population and maybe it does in the long run but these snakes do this every year in roughly the same location.

    1. Thanks. I guess I’ve gone more into detail about this in previous years, but yes, quite right. And while we always had a few snakes in this location, the population stayed small as long as we mowed the lawn.

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