Friday, November 11, 2011

Occupy 11-11-11

        Years ago when Caroline and I moved to Tuxedo Park, we visited an out-building (an old disused garage) on my mother’s property where we had stored some of our possessions after leaving our airy loft in Brooklyn Heights for a smaller apartment in Manhattan. Keeping things there seemed like a good idea at the time, but the space wasn’t perfectly weather-tight and the atmosphere eventually turned our possessions (a Danish teak desk my parents bought for my brother and me when we were children; some vinyl lps; old clothes and other items I should have, but hadn’t, discarded) into an interesting sort of compost.

        Tuxedo Park has a large and diverse snake population, including poisonous specimens such as copperheads and rattlers.  You need to remember this and cross tall-grass areas carefully.  Surprises lurk there and it isn't uncommon to see sizable serpents crossing (and during summer sleeping on) our roads.  

        I don’t remember whether we were looking for anything particular that day or just doing a general inventory, but Caroline glanced down at one point, then up, having turned white as a sheet, which on her is really disturbing.  At her feet was a long something I didn’t immediately recognize, but which looked like varicolored tissue paper or, perhaps, ladies’ stockings.  Clearly stunned (but confident in her conclusion -- she is like that), she posited that the object was a freshly-shed rattlesnake skin.  Schooling and the Discovery Channel persuaded me that she was correct and it was only a short leap to the inevitable question, “If that’s true, where is the rattlesnake?”

     I remember immediately running from the garage back across the meadow toward my mother’s house and also feeling a burning shock on my shoulder before we were out the door.   Later that afternoon when we went out to jog, I felt queasily light-headed and my thoughts were distorted, rapid and incoherent.  I was looking forward to running, but I couldn’t take more than a few steps because my legs felt heavy and the arm where I was bitten was flushed and very oddly swollen.  (Imagine Francis Bacon sculpting a human arm.)   My not-very-bright, but crystal-clear thought, shared with my wife, was that I was turning into the Incredible Hulk.

       Vodka and valium homeopathy didn't abate my symptoms and eventually we learned that I had suffered a spider bite, not uncommon in Orange County, New York, but something we hadn’t considered because it was a totally outside our experience.

        Today I “Occupy 11-11-11” and have decided to shed my old skin, which seems like a good idea.  

        But I’m mindful of the fact that I never actually saw the snake who turned over a new leaf by losing and leaving his skin. 

        Did he have a good day that day somewhere else or did he merely disappear, trusting no forwarding address to the spider he managed to avoid?

Note:   Illustration No. 5 is Jasper Francis Cropsey, Autumn Landscape, Sugarloaf Mountain, Orange County, New York, 1870


  1. Yesterday I was asking myself, why do I continue to believe in the possibility of redemption, transfiguration? Tomorrow can be different! The past can/will/must be forgotten! I've always thought this (just as I've always had a poor memory). What do I seek?

    I've loved many of your recent posts, especially the nightmares and the frogs.

  2. Thank you. SO good to find you here. As for your thoughts, as Quakers say: "the Friend speaks my mind." It's been crazy lately -- up/down/up/down. Every day brings a new variation, but never surprises disordering the series. We've been rather exhausted lately because we need to pay pretty constant attention to Andy, the dachshund. That, however, has been (so far) down/up/up/up. So good. Hope you have a really good weekend. I need to address the leaves. I really liked Merry's work, by the way, and told her so. I hope she's going to continue persevering. Curtis

  3. She is, and mentioned to me that you had written to her about her drawing, which made me happy because I think your reactions are informed and valuable. All good wishes to and about Andy. I wish we had a Philly office so I had an excuse to visit you.

    The leaves are finally beautiful here. With luck we will find our way into them on a long walk in the woods of central Mass. on Sunday.

    Very best to the ladies.