Snakes In The Grass

On the ranch, I communicate with the animals. I coral the horses from one field to the next. The horses- like everyone else on this planet- don’t understand my Spanish either, so I run behind them, clap my hands and yell “go go go!” That they can understand. They gallop fast into the next pasture and I close the rickety old gates behind them.

In the afternoons, the horses eat the grass around the house and we feed them stale biscuits from the kitchen windows.  One horse, the fattest horse, steps inside the living room in search of more biscuits. She is a vacuum for forgotten food.

VACUUM! Sometimes I feel like I am in a vacuum. Not for lack of interactions with others, but for lack of earnest connections. It’s not that I can’t connect, I can connect easily with strangers. It’s just that my feelings are so much more immense and I am so sensitive. I feel everything – pleasure and anger, love and heartbreak, guilt and innocence, embarrassed and unabashed, restless and peaceful, spirited and cowardly, pained and calm- all at once I eat conflicting emotions. And those emotions run deep. They run to the bottom of The Dead Sea, and nothing else is down there with me except for bacteria and microscopic algae! Feeling so much can make me feel alone, even when surrounded by a thousand other faces… especially when surrounded by a thousand other faces.

Nothing inside of me is tame!

The sheep aren’t tame either, but they are skittish and extremely sentient. They have recently been sheered and they don’t dare let me get close, they run in terror if I’m 20 feet away from them. Three of them have a fungus in their hooves and they limp and hobble and moan. We chase all of the sheep into a pen in order to treat the three impaired ones. We do this because sheep hate to be alone, where one goes, they all go. We go down the hill, way beneath them, and yell “perro, up, up, up.” The dogs barking at our side. Two abled sheep get on either side of the hurt sheep and aid them in running up the hill.

Their way of protecting each other is beautiful to witness. I don’t think humans do this enough. If there was an avalanche, would you panic and push me down to save yourself? Or would you grab my hand carry me at your side to safety? And me, what would I do?

One of the hurt sheep escaped the pen, and I witnessed my friend punishing the sheep by punching and kicking it seven times in a row. It seemed barbaric and unnecessary and I said so. We are connected to every living thing. That tree, that animal, that river, that grass, that ocean, that alien, that mushroom, that stranger- they are your brothers and sisters too. After seeing that, I decided right then and there, that the cowboy would probably push me and all of the sheep down in an attempt to escape an avalanche.

Sheep are gentle and kicking or no kicking it seems to me that they are frightened of everything but the grass and each other. Why do we count sheep before we sleep?  I want to feel strength before bed. I’m going to start counting panthers or something else fierce that rules the jungle and can slaughter the site of any bad dreams. One panther, two panthers, three panthers, four…. HISS! PURR! GROWL! SCREAM!

The farm is heating up and the cows hang way down by the river. When we see them, we moo, and the cows stop dead in their tracks and moo right back. I don’t know what we’re saying to the cows, but they do. What if anytime a human moos to a cow it translates in cow language to “I want to eat you.” And then when the cow moos back it translates to “F*** You!”

On this sea of grass, I prefer the night to day. It’s electric. It’s intoxicating. Everything sparkles. Frogs and crickets sing until they create a symphony that collides with the dark folds of life. The yellow moon smiles down on earth through a smokey veil of ice crystals. The constellations of the southern hemisphere twirl. And glowworms flash neon green on every blade of grass. They pulse on and then off and then on. The glowworms speak a visual language made of light that screams into the night “Here I am, love me!” Then they wait for their lovers to fly down and mate, never asking each other, “Will you still glow for me tomorrow?” Because it doesn’t matter. Because their only purpose in life is to glow and create more things that glow. And a love like that, that only glows, knows no clouds.

Not all animals love so simply. I once visited a zoo somewhere in Ireland. I sat and stared at a female silverback gorilla for a long time, maybe an hour, maybe more. She was sitting on one side of the glass and me the other. She was crying and there was blood on her face. At some point a zookeeper walked in and I asked her what happened.

“Oh Bernadette, she had a fight with another female, and she lost the fight,” the zookeeper said.

“What was the fight about?” I asked.

“Both of the females are in love with the Connor, our male gorilla,” the zookeeper said.

From time to time, I think about Bernadette and her pain. Usually late at night.

And what about humans? Oh the dark spaces humans can enter when confronted with the vulnerability of loving something. Walking around with itchy hearts as if they have been stung inside by a thousand mosquitos. Scratching at ancestral wounds, childhood wounds, the wounds of yesterday. The only cure being to run and hide until it temporarily disappears, or to stare straight at the wound and send it love until it no longer itches with neediness.

The temperature drops drastically at night on the farm. We cook in a handmade adobe oven or over a fire. We make our own bread, pizza, and vegetables. The warmth of the fire carries our bodies through the cold night. 

The nights are cold, but the days are hot and the earth is starting to get crunchy. Most of the water used for the farm is collected from the sky and there hasn’t been much sky water lately. The green grass is fading to brown. Only the weeds with thorns will stay alive without the rain. They are greedy water thieves with deep roots and dangerous stems.

I have been seeing dragonflies and some say that means rain is near. Dragonflies are so cool. Their heads are all eyes. They have iridescent wings and bodies. They can fly upside down and backwards. Their larvae hatch and live underwater for 2-6 years. Female dragonflies “play dead” to avoid mating with unwanted lovers. They have four wings and can move at 18 miles per hour – thats more than twice as fast as Juniper. And most magical of all, they have been around since before dinosaurs walked this earth!

Dragonfly or no dragonfly, we were worried about the water in the sky, so we spent a full day collecting ground water. It took trucks and barrels and hoses. Hours later, the house well was full again. But then the water pump broke. It’s a scenario I’m familiar with from owning a boat. Fix one thing, then another more expensive thing breaks.

After farm work, we swim in the cold river at the base of the hill.  Moss grows on every stone and I want to be a strange plant growing in the sun by the river, or perhaps I already am. 

Parrots squeal in the trees as I swing through the branches searching for a shady place to nap. I curl up among the roots of a prehistoric tree at the top of the hill. The wind blows steady there. Air plants grow from every open limb of my shady tree and bees pollinate the small yellow flowers that fall from long and slender stalks on its branches. I sleep next to a chunk of quartz crystal that’s been on this land as long as the tree. They don’t count the time of their existence, but I do.

I have a hard time falling asleep because I worry about snakes in the grass. The day is hot and the snakes crave the shade like every other living thing. One must always be wary of snakes in the grass- especially in cities.

I cover my legs- one panther, two panthers, three panthers, four- and drift into a world of transience. I fly up into the arms of a triangular dreamcatcher that is woven out of feathers and weeping willows. My dreams are like a geode hiding in the heart of a rock. I am a hummingbird, I am a crocodile, I am a firebird heading towards a fire without fear. I get burned by the flames but I don’t care, because I am Alice and this is Wonderland. I curve, I surge, I swim. The grass around me shimmers until it becomes the sea and I ride a boat made of yellow flower petals towards a floating island; where there are no roads, no people, no confusion. No confusion at all. It’s just me, the guru inside of my heart, and things that glow. And I lay there glowing along with them. I leave behind the weight of everything and I float on.


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3 Replies to “Snakes In The Grass”

  1. Hi Olivia –
    I love love love your writing. Along with everything else that you are you are also a true poet. You seriously are one of the most amazing people i have ever met. I am in awe of you!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Tillman, I am so grateful to have met you and Susana! I hope that your holidays sparkle and I am sending you lots of love from here. Thank you for reading along. It means the world to me to hear that you dig the writing. I just started reading a book about Octopuses and I think it is the one y’all recommended- “The soul of an Octopus?” Sending lots of love y’alls way!

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