ZUBIN
MATHAI
author of the oarsman
New Slithering Friend
October 26, 2016

Yesterday I want for a hike up Fox Canyon trail. It had been cooler the last few days compared to the heat of last week, so it was nice to go for a longer walk. From Fox I went to Fuelbreak, and then over to Pratt to stand and look at the valley from a different angle.

On the way back I felt peace. The sky was preciously blue — so blue that when I took off my sunglasses for a peek I sighed at the vibrancy. The one tree whose leaves had changed to yellow was a spot of color in all the dustiness, and I felt a kinship to it.

With the crunch of my steps the only sounds, I found myself looking down continuously. Perhaps it was to keep the sun from my face, or maybe to stare at the sandy path and how it held fast to footsteps of people I’d probably never meet.

When I reconnected with Fox Canyon and headed over to Luci Trail, still looking down, one thing on the ground caught my attention. It was different from the light browns and flatness of the dirt, and it took my brain a moment to recognize it: a rattlesnake.

Time slowed. For two long seconds I stared at it, yet was still swimming in a silent peace. On the outside, I instinctively took half a step back. But, the snake, apart from its visual differences, was not separate from the trail, the moment, or even me. Everything around was a single, unbroken canvas.

But when the snake withdrew to a coil and started rattling, I was snapped out of it. I took another two steps back this time. Finally, the snake escaped to the grass while noisily letting me know it did not like me there.

As I got back down to Shelf Road and headed to my car, I was back to a quiet peace. The people I passed on the way, their dogs, the trees and rocks, the snake somewhere up there slithering, even the parked cars, all were brush strokes on the single, glorious canvas of my heart.