What’s up with the snakes?

Grass Snake Illustration

Isn’t it Arsenio Hall that as part of his act, wonders about “things that make you go huh?” They are imponderables really, things that, for whatever reason strike a relevant but puzzling chord. My summer reading is doing just that.

My mother left me a book she picked up in Middleburg one day whilst shopping and wandering about tourist-like. She bought local author, Susan McCorkindale’s book, 500 Acres And No Place to Hide. It’s not new but newish and I’m trying to get to know my new spot in Virginia and summer is here so this seemed like the perfect book to start. Besides, it was on the top of the stack next to my reading chair.

The memoir tells how Susan McCorkindale moves from big city life to the county with her family and has to dig in to learn about doing things differently, especially since she had a high-powered media position, and living outside Middleburg is so different, rather farmie and folkloric, and filled with snakes and vermin, and dogs and chickens, to say nothing of cattle. At first. And all whilst continuing to wear heels.  Maybe you should just watch the trailer for the book: Here

The first thing I have in common, really the only thing I have in common, is the snakes. Virginia has a plethora of snakes. More snakes than we ever ran into in Texas, or any other state we ever lived in. The thing I will remember about this book, besides the use of footnotes, and the ending, are the snakes.

That’s not completely true, but more about that later.

The next book on my stack is by Margaret Roach, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, also a memoir, also by a woman who left a high powered media job to go live in the country but by herself. Not unknown country either, she moved to her weekend home in upstate New York where she had owned the property for some years. But being a weekend visitor is different than full time living in a home.

And, there are snakes. Lots of snakes. And fear of snakes. And lots of fears about lots of other things, from finances, to weather, to just plain going out her door and down the road. Interspersed with her angst we get glimpses into this gardeners relationship with her garden and nature and her becoming one with it all.

In both books we find out that these two beautiful women have great angst and issues. Some take the form of physical, some purely emotional and psychological, some related to surroundings or a new home. Neither women or their new lives are perfect. Far from it. Both of these ladies are a mess at various points.  Both find difficulty in the transition from one life to the next. And, as someone who has also made a big move to a different life, they seemed to mourn the old one as much as I have!

New isn’t always better, it’s different, and not necessarily terrific or more fulfilling, at least not at first. And honestly a new life can be messy, and having to face a few snakes is highly likely. A better more excellent life has to be built, nurtured, earned even.

Why these two books on my stack now? Just happenstance? Maybe, maybe not. Four years ago this month I moved to Virginia to start a new life and I’m still transitioning. I’ve felt a little bad about that…why hasn’t it been easier? Why has this move taken such a toll on my health? And when will it get better? It’s going to take more time to not feel like such a mess, and at my age. But at least I seem to be in good company. Minus the snakes of course.

Reading through to the end of the Acknowledgements there is this recognition to:

“The snakes, symbols of rebirth and transformation, who open up to take in and swallow whole all that is needed to survive and thrive.” Margaret Roach

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do recognize snakes have their place in our environment. I just really don’t want them in my garage or basement. I hope this isn’t a trend in the rest of my summer reading. Stay tuned.


Here’s a shed snakeskin found inside my husband’s workshop hanging on a nail. It’s about 5 feet long.



About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
This entry was posted in Books, Virginia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What’s up with the snakes?

  1. okiewife says:

    I am really afraid of snakes. When we moved to Oklahoma 30 years ago I expected to see a rattlesnake behind every rock and clump of weeds or grass. Reality? I’ve seen 2. Dead on the highway. So much for my phobia. I enjoyed your post.

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