Little Snakes: By Catherine Newman
“Hibernaculum,” Birdy says again, patiently, after I shake my head at the unrecognized word. “It’s a place where all the snakes are waking up.” All the snakes is not a phrase I’m in love with. Especially followed by waking up. I must shudder visibly, because Birdy laughs. “I know!” she says, and pats me. “It sounds so terrible! I thought the same thing. And it is. But it’s amazing.”
Because this hibernaculum, to which a teacher has taken my daughter’s class, is within walking distance of our house, Birdy, her older brother Ben, their father, and I set off through the woods. It’s early spring, some scraps of ground thawing darkly, some still patchy with ice. We will experience this cold-blooded waking nightmare ourselves in just a minute—but still we pepper ten-year-old Birdy with questions. How many snakes are there? “Fifteen?” she says, making a little mÃ¡s-o-menos sign with her hand. “Maybe fifty? I’m not so great at estimating.” What are they doing? She shrugs. “Just, kind of, being snakes.”
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