A Snake Called Narcissus

My little pond with its rocks and pebbles and shrubs has attracted a garter snake I call Athena, as I explained in a previous post. (Snakes… Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?)

Athena ‘charmed’ me with what appears to be an idiosyncratic habit of playing in the water spout that pours into the spillway. Over and over, she climbs carefully up the water fall, her scaled hide sliding over the stones, rounding the edges, curving upward in her striped elegance.

When she gets to the spout she appears to be overcome by some kind of ecstatic fit. She bites the water and flings her head around much as a dog does when it plays with a hose.

I can’t get enough of Athena.

So, this is my downfall.

This morning, I noticed my biggest, 3-year-old koi, Tuna, was missing.

As I tossed fish flakes, all the others flitted out and gobbled them up as usual. I called. No Tuna.

Uh oh.

It wasn’t too long before Athena slunk out from beneath her salvia “cave,” curving her way across the flat slate, leaving a trail of water parentheses as her body moved.


She looked at me innocently, but I knew.

There wasn’t a lump or anything. Her body was as smooth as ever. She isn’t skinny, but she hasn’t been.

She gracefully muscled and surged her way into a patch of sunshine, where she coiled up for a few minutes. Then she crawled up on the warm wooden edge of the garden, and lay there, stretched out to the full magnificence of her 35 or so inches.


I have to justify her presence, since I think she has already eaten all the frogs. I loved the frogs. But any animal who offers an experience you will never forget, plus has no rancor toward you, and is quiet and pretty to look at, is one worth having around.

In fact, many people that I shared the video with, suggested that Athena is some kind of spiritual connection.


The message from Snake on Spirit-Animals.com said, “Be prepared to defend your territory or your personal beliefs. Understand that your opinions are worthy.”

The snake, I learned, is a feminine energy, the symbol of change, of wisdom and healing.

That’s perfect. On Tuesday, I have to go to court and fight for the right to have a visit with my sister, Amanda. I am fighting on Amanda’s behalf, for her right to choose.

It is not the first time I have had to advocate to the system on Amanda’s behalf.

It frankly is ridiculous, and horrible.

But I feel empowered. I love the idea of a snake charm, helping me through the ordeal.

But Tuna!!!

Yes he is just a fish.

tuna RIP

Tuna first came here in 2013 to live in the horse tank but we built the pond for him that year. He came with a friend but the friend didn’t survive the horse tank days. Tuna wintered in a too-small aquarium in the house. He never really responded to me like some of the goldfish do, but he was fun to watch because of his maneuvers. And he could jump. I once saw him jump up on and land on his slate ledge and then roll back in. He would hit an earthworm, grubs, anything wiggly. R.I.P. Tuna: we really enjoyed you!

I am more upset about this than I expected I would be. I had been warned that Athena might eat some of my fish.


Do I feel angry at her? No.


But I realize she has to be relocated, so I don’t lose all of the fish, or some birds, and so I can bring the frogs back. I am grieving for Tuna, and also for this experience of the water-eating snake that I have never seen and may never see again.

She murdered my fish, but I can’t hold it against her. She is who she is. Her agenda is doing her own stuff, living her snake life.

My job is to deal with her, as she is, so she doesn’t do further harm to me or loved ones.


Then I understand the other message.

I cannot afford to remain so angry about this situation with my brothers and Amanda. What they are doing, keeping us apart, is horribly, HORRIBLY abusive, to both of us.

Rage. Pure, heart-pounding, nauseating, wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night rage.

Bullies suck! They SUCK!!!

This is the kind of rage one feels only when witnessing the helpless being victimized.

The worst kind of snarling, soul-burning, gut-wrenching fury that has changed nations, started wars, inspired epic sonnets in its righteousness.

But, my anger has to be tamped down. It doesn’t do well in court to start swearing and throwing things. And, it may already be affecting my health.

I have to set my emotions aside, and realize that I can’t change a snake.


A narcissist slides through life. Yes, he will play in your water spout. He will entertain the heck out of you. You might even think you are friends. But, lo and behold, when your back is turned, he will rob you.

He will then proceed to sun himself on your patio the next day, and stare at you without even blinking.

This has been an expensive lesson — again — about Narcissus. Oh, man, I just keep running into him. I sooo want to be done with him!

But he continues on with his own slithering agenda, and sometimes he is in your rock garden, and your pond, and he will do damage until YOU get rid of him. Yep, it isn’t fair, you didn’t ask for it, but in order to protect your loved ones, Narcissus must be removed.

It can be done in a humane way. But he has to be gone. Because he may shed his skin at some point, but what comes out is still a snake.

So there will be no peace in the garden until Narcissus is faced down and dealt with, and taken somewhere that he can go snake around someone else.




About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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