Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heart of a Lion

I think most people by now know that a lot of the critters in my yard scare the pants off me. Mostly they are harmless, scary, but harmless. There are lots of animals in Malawi that are really really dangerous. Some of them are small enough to slip unnoticed into someone's (my) garden. I think the animals that terrify me the most are snakes. Cobras, boomslangs, mambas, they all live around here. We have found snakes in our garden but so far they have all been the harmless can't-kill-me-except-from-a-heart-attack sort of snake.

Before we came to Malawi to help get the kids excited we let them watch hours of African animal shows on Nat Geo Wild. We took them to the zoo and looked for all the animals from Africa. We read books about African animals. Somehow the black mamba seemed to show up again and again. Well mambas and hippos, hippos scare me silly but I am pretty sure I would notice a hippo wandering around my garden before I even made it out of the door. Mambas on the other hand are long and skinny and can hide any freaking where. I saw a show the other day where one was hiding in the water tank on the back of the toilet. That's one sneaky snake.

I can't blame all my issues with snakes on Nat Geo Wild. It's nothing new, but the upgrade from rattlesnake to mamba with the added bonus of severely limited availability of antivenin has meant a drastic escalation in my level of paranoia. All the boys from my husband down think I am nuts. I think I am cautious.

Last night I had a dream a black mamba reared up in my face while I was weeding around the overgrown comfrey plant in my garden. I'm sure this nightmare has it's roots in a late glass of red wine and an unfortunate incident with a bull snake in my Aunt Patsy's bean patch one summer when I was a kid. Nothing like a five foot snake rearing up in your face to scar you for life. Chicken snakes are harmless, black mambas not so much. I woke up this morning with my heart pounding praying it was raining so I could skip the garden today. The sun was shining. I guess I was going to be gardening.

As I walked into the garden I saw a skink slither into the comfrey plant. Good! If I was seeing lizards there probably wasn't a snake in the garden. I am assuming that a mamba would eat the lizard. If I am wrong don't feel the need to correct me, let me live in ignorance, my phobia doesn't need feeding, it is doing just fine on it's own.

The plan for this morning was to clear away the dead pepper plants and marigolds and to plant some bush beans. The dead pepper plants were right next to the comfrey. GULP! I refuse to let my crazy run my life so I plopped my butt down and started pulling up weeds. Then I noticed some dead leaves on the comfrey. Heart pounding I reached down and pulled them off and tossed them into the compost bucket along with the weeds. No snake reared up kill me. Whew! It was just a silly dream.

Do you remember that skink? The one I saw when I first walked into the garden? Well I had forgotten all about it and decided to finish tidying the comfrey plant as long as I was working around it. About halfway through cleaning it up the lizard suddenly had enough and decided to confront the problem (that would be ME) head on. A six inch lizard ran up my arm, jumped off my elbow, and headed for the tomatoes. All I saw was a blur with scales. Scream doesn't even begin to cover the sound I made. The guard came running. I am not sure he understood what scared me but eventually he seemed satisfied that there was no danger and he could go back to his post.

A lizard attack and severe embarrassment, great way to start the day. Is 8:20 am too early for a drink?

This is a skink, not a mamba.


Anne said...

I had a similar encounter (minus the dream) with a lizard...inside my house. I know it was harmless, but STILL! Freaked me out! I can't imagine what my reaction would have been in your situation, especially after that scary dream.

Our guards are constantly telling us about all of the snakes (mostly cobras) that they kill at night. I was fully expecting one to be waiting for me inside my house when we returned from leave. I hate snakes!!

Nomads By Nature said...

Completely entitled to scream from anything scampering unexpectedly up your arm. I would include cussing, falling backwards on your bum while clawing at anything to get away, peeing your pants, ugly relief belly laughing with tears and snot bubbles, and incoherent babbling all in the category of acceptable response possibilities. I may have done one or any combination of the above at some time under similar circumstances.

As far as that drink - most certainly earned. I would suggest a cool ice tea to bring back balance and calm. A Long Island Ice Tea perhaps. ;)