Friday, June 21, 2013

Charming

The week got away from me again.

But it was a wonderful week, so if one has to slip by, that's the best way for it to go.

I've been working on my project on the Gulags this week--in particular, I spent the day writing about Shalamov's story "The Snake-Charmer."

And when I went out into my yard to get my bike, what did I nearly step on?  A snake.

No, it was not a cobra.

Just a tiny garter snake, but I jumped a mile in the air nevertheless.

I did not whip out my pungi and begin charming it.  Actually, snake charming, as it turns out, is a pretty cruel profession.

The snake's mouth is generally sewn shut.  The charmer leaves just enough room for its tongue to flick, so the viewing public thinks it can bite.  But it can't.

As a result, the snake usually dies of starvation or a mouth infection, so another one needs to be captured and subjected to the same treatment.

The charmer typically sits outside of snake's strike-zone anyway.  The snake responds, not to the music, but to the fact that it perceives the man and the pungi as a predator and a threat.

Which is actually rather true, if you think about it.

I simply thought that it was odd that I spent a day writing about a story called "The Snake Charmer," only to discover a snake in my yard. 

It must mean the writing project is on the right track.

This feeling is further reinforced by the fact that, several weeks ago, I went to a party and there was a copy of one of the history books about the Gulag that we're actually using for our project. 

Needless to say, I was quite surprised, and even more surprised when one of the party guests asked the host, "So how are you liking that book about the Gulags?"

These were not professors or historians.  They were normal people, reading a book about the Gulags and discussing it at a party.  I loved it.  I was totally at the right party. 

I've decided it's a sign.  First a book, then a snake.  What's next, I wonder?  Hopefully, not a Siberian snowstorm on the first day of summer.  That would be taking it a bit too far.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."