Running yesterday and dreaming big, impossible dreams, and then stepping, ever so slightly, on the tail of a snake.
It was not so big but big enough to span the width of the singletrack, and it writhed its mass across the full breadth of the trail and thrashed and twirled and - maybe I just imagined it - lunged for me. Clinton Lake has both Copperheads and Rattlesnakes, both of which can kill you, and so quite understandably I screamed at a pitch I'm not sure I've ever reached before, turned, and ran.
I had been running before, mind you, but not really running. There is running and then there is running. Sometimes the former is called jogging, but I think that is reserved for slower people than I would like to think I am, because self image works that way. Regardless, I took off at a pace that felt pretty fast and my cadence increased progressively until I was basically sprinting, but can't have been, really, since I maintained roughly that clip for 4 miles before slowing back down again. It's not so much that I had imagined the snake was chasing me, as I chose to ride the little wave of adrenaline I'd been gifted. The earnest desire to really run like hell, like some sort of feral bipedal primate, comes only so often, and you shouldn't waste it when it visits.
That feeling vanishes though, after a little bit, and so I resumed a slow trot and considered the events that had just unfolded, me humaning along, the snake snaking across the trail, our individual natures colliding for that one brief moment. I occurred to me that, miles from the trailhead, any bite from a decidedly poisonous snake could perhaps be fatal. I don't say that to instill my daily jaunts around the lake with any false drama; it is merely an unlikely but possible outcome.
Similarly, it occurred to me that the snake was probably closer to legitimate harm than I had been. Had I landed several feet to the left, on its head, the only writhing would have been death throes. Here, this clumsy monstrosity had come plodding down the this dirt path, and stepped directly and unconsciously into the rare perfectly sunny spot on said trail, alit by a wide gap in the foliage above. I supposed that I would be angry if something 20 times my weight stepped on me while I was quite contently napping.
I thought more about the instantaneous reactions we both had. It: Writhing, twisting, biting. All faster than I could comprehend. I had nearly taken another full step before my brain managed to compute what had happened, and what was now happening. But then, I: Screaming, recoiling, leaping, and sprinting away. There was not one conscious reaction in that period for myself, or, I'm assuming, the snake. We were humaning and snaking and acting according to code that we can only overwrite with decided and premeditated effort. Otherwise, our nature is our nature. To say that "we are who we are" is to assume a defined nature of "who", which is far beyond anything I can yet grasp. But I feel comfortable saying that "we are what we are".
Another mile or so passed and my stride was once again comfortable. There was a rabbit, several feet in front of me, back turned. It did not see me nor did it hear me approaching, until I clapped, and it jolted into the tall grass. This is not uncommon. There are many rabbits at Clinton Lake and they are surprisingly oblivious. It is not at all difficult to run past them, around them, or over them. You get the sense that the reason rabbits breed like rabbits is because the adults could rather easily be killed by any predator with half a mind to do so. As I ran by I shouted back at the rabbit that it should avoid a certain intersection a certain distance away, because there was a rather angry set of serpentine fangs there presently. I do not imagine that it listened nor did I think that it would at the time, but running induced hypoglycemia and dehydration make for occasionally silly behavior.
I thought about nature and mine and the rabbit's and the snake's and that our nature is really our nature not our respective natures, rather a collective entity which cannot be separated into composite parts, and did I mention that I was basically bonked as shit? I'm not presently trying to write about the Circle of Life or suggest that we are all some greater cosmic whole, man, and that the snake and the rabbit are really the same existence, arbitrary words given to different points on one continuum, some garbled and indistinguishable parts of one ecosystem, and I as well, that the snake was not biting at me as it was biting at itself, and that the rabbit which the snake may eat in the future is like the snake eating its own tail, like the cosmic serpent of Norse mythology swallowing its own being in perpetuity, nature feasting on nature, self regulating unless we run by and fucking step on it.
People ask me what I think about when I run on that trail, often for hours at a time. This is why you'd rather not know.