When I stand at the window watching the flickers, sparrows, finches, chickadees, and red-winged blackbirds come and go from the feeders, I wonder who is watching who. They remain wary of me, fluttering away quickly if I approach with lens in hand. They fear capture, even within a camera. They have a life to be lived without my witness or participation. So much happens that I never see or know about.
I understand: I fear being captured too.
Even if only for a moment as an image preserved forever, I know it doesn’t represent all I am, all I’ve done, all I feel, all my moments put together. The birds are, and I am, so much more than one moment.
Only God sees us fully in every moment, witness to our freedom and captivity, our loneliness and grief, our joy and tears, knowing our best and our worst.
And because He knows us so well, in Him we must trust.
Pruning back the old spirea bushes that sprawled for years in summer’s heat, I bared the snake skin, a yard and a half long: its naked empty length rippled in the streaming wind lifting its ghostly coils from the dead shoots that scraped the slough from the slithering body that shed it in that narrow, shaded space.
I paused—who wouldn’t?—shears poised, slipped off gray canvas gloves, extracted the sere, striated casing from the brown stalks that had held it, silent, hidden.
I coiled the paper-thin curling sheath with care, delicately, eased it into a simple squatty box for keeping, for care, for my daughters to take to school, to show, to explain how some sinuous body we’ve never glimpsed, that haunts about our shrubs, our porch, left for us this translucent, scale-scored wrapper, this silent hint of all that moves unseen. ~Stephen Behrendt “Snakeskin”
Cast off on a sunny spring day
onto a warm manure pile,
a wriggled-free fresh molt snakeskin,
nearly covered by my fresh load~
lay blended with old hay, horse hair, shavings,
tucked among what is already digested,
dumped and discarded.
This, an intact hollowed shadow
of a still living creature
who has moved on:
I too need to leave my old self
shrugged off onto the manure pile,
shed when it no longer fits
the ways I’ve grown hallowed,
a fitting remembrance of
who I once was,
yet left behind.