A note from the Jentel Residency…
Today I went for a nice tromp around the ‘thousand acres’ – which is the grazing land at the ranch, with very tall hills, big rocks, sage brush and grassy bits. The blooms of flowers and the seed heads at then end of amber colored grasses dipped slightly in the light breeze and gave the hills a sort of glowing undulating aura. I saw pretty flowers in many colors, floatee butterflies, skipping grasshoppers, buzzing flies and bees and la and la. All was a fascinating percussion of chirrups, whirrs and the gattling retreats of the grasshoppery sort as I gallumphed along through the hills.
It is unfortunate that the details of the lala time were addled from my basket when in the midst of my idyllic and gallumphing return to the homestead I encountered my first verifiable Rattle Snake!
“Eek!” “Gosh it is sort of pretty.” “Hmmm, better back up.” “That wasn’t really all that bad…um well…”
The ‘um well..’ is in entirely in reference to the following: there are 1000 acres – but there is only one way in and out (short of sliding down very tall steep hills on one’s behind- which is not altogether without its risks). The snake, of course, was on the path. As you may be able to see from the helpful photos below – this path is none too wide, with a dirt cliff on one side (the snake side), a 2 foot wide gully in the middle (where I had seen a smaller snake of unknown identity dart to just before I laid eyes on Big Scary Snake) and then a wee few feet on the opposite side followed by a ravine.
So, attempting and undaunted appearance, I went to the left (hopefully snakeless) side of what seemed to be Snake Riviera in peak season, and proceeded as if in a mine field. Scary snake started up again – Scary Snake was an unexpected, limpid, nymph-like grey-green color – a seething rattling grey-green knot in the process of showing off various nautical knotting combinations with the agility and grace that would make any sea-faring man who knew his ropes go ‘Ooh-arrr!’ But for all the contortions, she stayed put on her side and I passed unbitten on the other, and Happy day! Escape from snake gulch!
On the way back my legs felt all rubbery – like when I go to the doctor and get a shot and then I go “that wasn’t really that bad!”, proceed to walk out the door only to collapse in the hallway. I kept making hissing sounds with a sort of false hilarity afterwards – the way children who have been chased by a dog spend the rest of the day saying ‘Ruff ruff!’
So the snake total is now up to 7: one grey snake, one rather large bull snake (looks like a rattler but nonpoisonous), one possible wee-rattler on the road, one runover rattler, one dun colored snake shaped blur, one stripey garden snake, and Big Mama with the fangs. Total snakes seen by other residents… Zero.
‘What?!?’ -you say.. ‘Are you some kind of snake magnet?’ ‘Somebody get this girl some boots..’ Indeed! If Medusa herself was a Jentel resident she might not see nearly so many as my current rate promises to yield. Of course, of the 5 other residents – one is almost nearly deaf (so is smart enough to stick close to home) and one has a torn Achilles tendon – so that limits their snake viewing potential quite a bit.
So, I am justifiably a bit nature shy at the moment. I feel too much like one of the wee people in the Poussin landscapes. All the little people nearer to the classical architectural elements are boating, swimming, having a nice old time. But the ones that have ventured too far a-field seem prone to all sorts of accidents: lightning strikes, snake bites, falling branches, even ravaging lions and the occasional dragging to death by horses (which always used to impress me in the cowboy movies I watched as a kid).
I think the moral of this story is: Stay in the studio and paint! Which is definitely what I will be doing for the next few days – as the canvas arrives tomorrow at last!