The long black snake was coiled in a dry glass aquarium. Mr. Smith placed the glass box on top of a table at the front of the room, then took a mouse out of a cage, lifting it by the tail. The mouse, suspended like an acrobat from a trapeze, splayed and wiggled its little legs ever so briefly before the doughy, red cheeked Mr. Smith plopped him in the box with the sleepy snake.
The inert snake roused instantly, awakened by the mammalian smell of mouse meat or, perhaps, the tickle of tiny mouse feet skittering in panic around his coiled gray back.
The lazy snake was in no hurry. The horror show in the glass box played out in slow motion.
Sitting at my desk in the next to the last row by the windows, my stomach churned as Mr. Smith enjoyed the show at close range. I remember how his pudgy hands held and twisted each other with seeming relish, how his wide eyes gleamed as they fixated on the scene in the glass box.
I alternately looked out the window and squeezed my eyes shut. But then, halfway against my will, my eyes would open again, drawn to the glass theater at the front of the room, for yet another nauseating peep.
I thought of Mr. Smith and my 7th grade science class yesterday afternoon when I clicked on a link that took me to a YouTube video of a ragged little brown bunny, in the wild, doing heroic battle against a big old black snake in the grass who was dispassionately swallowing her babies. Though one could argue that the video recorded a natural act and snakes must eat too, it was hard for me to watch. I clicked away before the video was over.
A few hours later, as I tried to settle into sleep, my mind wandered back to another scene my husband and I had witnessed a couple of years ago; a mother squirrel shrieking on a high tree branch as a hawk settled on her brown leafy nest and devoured her babies.
And then, as sleep continued to elude me, I pondered thousands of hidden scenes of massive, industrialized horror enacted on my behalf every day, just to put meat on my table.
"Every day is Auschwitz for the chickens." Isaac Bashevis Singer.
What is it, I wonder, that impells inorganic matter, the water, minerals and clay we're all made of, to animate and enact these daily scenes of horror? It is the mysterious life force some of us call Nature and others call God. And seemingly, like the ancient symbol of the coiled snake consuming its own tail, the life force is an endless loop which both creates and destroys itself without ceasing.
But why with such cruelty? Why not gently?
It was Emerson who opined, "There is a crack in everything God has made." How right he was! The world and everything in it looks more cracked every day, which leads me to conclude that God, who I believe created the universe and everything in it, is also cracked.
There's a common assumption that God is perfect, but I don't believe that. I believe that, like the men He created in his own image, God is also cracked and imperfect.
As always, if you find anything here that either delights you or makes you cuss, I ask you to share Dogwood Daughter with someone else. I depend on word of mouth from kind folks like you.
Be Well and Good Luck,