A week ago I was pretty pleased with the way I was getting over my fear of snakes. I'd stopped anxiously scanning a room before entering, I'd decided I could go to the clothes line in thongs and without that awful tense fear in my chest. I'd decided that it was monkey brain stuff and that I could control it. Had worked out that humans are not natural prey for snakes and that being bitten was not actually my worst fear - there are after all spiders like redbacks or white tailed spiders that can give you a nasty bite and I'm not afraid of them. Also if you get bitten, you go to hospital. And anyway when was the last time anyone in Australia actually died from snake bite?
So a couple of nights ago we're having dinner outside and afterwards Gerard is watering the vegetable garden and he calls Grace and I over. I know he wouldn't be calling us to come and see a brown snake but still I am reluctant to go. He cajoles and I resist, but eventually we go. And there just by one of the tomato plants is some reptile skin. It's not a whole snake skin but it looks like snake skin. It is moist and fresh and straight away I begin to freak out. So, it wasn't a snake on the move after all It is living in our freaking backyard and wrapping itself around our tomato plants to shed a skin it has grown out of. Not only is the snake still here but it is GETTING BIGGER. Just writing this is making my chest constrict and my stomach ache.
The next day, I ring the snake handler who came out the first time. He chats for a while about snake habits and seems to think that our yard may be part of the snake's range. Doesn't think there is much point in coming out to find and catch the snake unless we actually see it. Says that if we are worried that we should wear shoes in the back yard. He does talk to us on the phone for quite a while but it doesn't make me feel better about a snake in the veggie patch.
Over the next few days the fear grows and grows. I'm hallucinating snakes and don't even feel safe inside, even though that first time Gerard and the snake handler went through the back of the house really thoroughly and really there is no evidence of a snake being inside. And the sloughed snake skin was outside. I talk to people about the snake and people seem to get wise and tight lipped when I say it is a brown snake. People think brown snakes should be caught. I also hear lots of snake stories About my neighbour who has had three separate snake bites. A dad at Grace's school who was standing neck deep in a river and a snake tried to beach itself on his neck. And about another woman who jumped into the Yarra river with friends after a music festival and emerged with a snake around her leg. I wonder if I'll ever be able to swim in brown water again. Another friend on Facebook mentions that the shamans believe snake energy is really powerful. I'd like to believe that somehow our house is blessed but I'm almost too fearful to google snake energy. Let alone useful information about how snakes behave.
Eventually I decide I need to do something and ring the council who put me on to the Department of Sustainability who put me onto some private snake handlers, including the one I have already rung. What I really wanted was for someone to say, oh no you can't have a brown snake in your yard, we'll send someone over and they will totally take care of it. I ring another snake handler and again, he's really nice, and again he doesn't think there is much point in him coming over unless we actually see the snake. Which really is the last thing I want.
Now five days later, I have a hold of my fear again. We've decided that you need to wear shoes to take the compost out and go in the veggie patch. But that thongs are OK on the grass and at the table outside. We're going to clean up around the backyard a bit more but probably not enough to eliminate all snake habitat, because it's nice to have some bushes and greenery around. And also we have heaps of building material that we have scavenged for the renovation project. It's saving us a heap of money that pile of weather boards so it's not going anywhere. I decided that what I needed was to engage with my space more so I spent a day cleaning out the study. I moved all the boxes and baskets, vacuumed behind things. The few things I couldn't move or see behind, I got Gerard to investigate with a torch. As he said, the snake is not that small, so hiding places are more limited than you would think. The study now feels very snake free. And you know, maybe it was a blue tongue lizard skin. But maybe not. Our house actually feels very rodent free for a change. Being afraid isn't going to make a bit of difference either way. I just have to learn to live with the fact that there are snakes around here.