We must have looked quite a sight this morning – me and the two dogs and three cats on our daily walk to the woods.
The cats have only just started coming along. Sometimes all three of them decide to take some exercise, sometimes it’s only one. Today they were a symmetrical cat sandwich, the two white and black females Monica and Misha topping and tailing little black and white Jimmy in the middle.
Cats on walks are very serious and determined, their attention totally focussed on keeping up. They look straight ahead, and walk or trot with heads down. If there is more than one then they walk in a line one behind the other. They tend not to like to cross open spaces (no trees to tear up if danger threatens) so they cross the field behind the house in a strange lope, their bodies curved into a comma shape. It’s very funny to watch.
Snakes Alive! (Not)
This morning, on one of the stony paths through the woods we were stopped in our tracks by a dead snake. I haven’t seen that many snakes in Italy, but know there are two main ones -grass snakes and vipers. This one was enormous, probably a metre long and greyish olive green with black markings. I think it was a harmless grass snake or a water snake. I have looked it up on Wikipedia to see, but I’m still not sure. I might have to go back and check! (I did go back and it had gone).
A European grass snake, also known as the water snake or ringed snake natrix natrix, for those of you who like the terminology, is quite harmless except if you happen to be an amphibian as they dine on frogs, tadpoles and fish. They vary in colour from green to grey and have a yellow collar. They like water and woods. I have seen several water snakes in Italy including some spectacular luminous green ones. You’ll often see them in the middle of strade bianche (unmade country roads) having been squashed by cars.
The dangerous snakes in Italy are the viperi – vipera berus – although they are quite timid and tend to slither away when they hear you coming. They can be quite big and fat – up to 60cm (2 feet) long and have a distinctive flat head with an X or a V on the back. Their colour can vary from grey to almost black and they have a black zig-zag pattern all down their backs.
The cats approached cautiously, while I managed to distract the dogs with a biscuit and they soon lost interest in the coiled creature that had turned up so unexpectedly. But for me a snake is more than just a snake. I tend to view these events from nature symbolically and a snake is a strong symbol of creativity. I hope that is a good omen for my work today!