Karma.

It’s what comes around after what goes around.

Defined as “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.”

Reap what you sow.

It’s what’s coming to you.

I’ve been monitoring a common, 18-inch garter snake that’s taken up residence in the ‘burbs of Mechanicsburg, within the paving blocks that make up a short wall at the corner of our house just feet away from the walkout basement.

I first saw it a couple of weeks ago as it sunned itself peacefully in a few leaves below two potted plants I’d gone to water. It thought better of staying out and casually slithered into the safety of a small opening in the blocks.

I’ve seen the snake most days since and have gotten comfortable with it being there.

Actually, I look forward to checking on it in the early morning, especially if there is sun to warm it.

I’m banking some “good snake karma.”

The phrase was first suggested to me by a neighbor years ago after I caught and released a four-foot black snake that had eased its way down through a crack between the ceiling and an inner wall of our cedar log house in the mountains.

“I don’t hurt them,” that neighbor said. “It’s good snake karma.”

This was after, that same week, I’d taken a flat shovel to a five-foot black snake that decided it would not be caught and instead was sliding from room to room, under and over every piece of furniture.

Banking good karma I take as showing restraint and a tad of understanding in the face of a lifetime phobia. That by not making many little snakes out of a larger one, good grace might shine on me on behalf of future serpents sure to be encountered. As if they know that many of their legless lizardlike legacy have been allowed to walk, or slither, unharmed. That the next snake I cross paths with might not sink its deadly fangs into my ankle, or worse, swallow me whole.

I cannot conclusively pinpoint the origin of my mild, lifelong case of Ophidiophobia. It is the second most common phobia in the world, behind Arachnophobia, fear of spiders. I don’t have that one.

I suspect it has something to do with watching too many Tarzan movies as a child, and my devout Catholic upbringing. You know — the whole serpent, apple, Adam and Eve dust-up.

It came to a head in that house on the edge of Michaux State Forest, a quaint mountain hideaway that breathed. Not every log fits flush on a cedar log cabin.

We could hear the mice skittering around in the attic. This was not long before the black snakes moved in as well.

For a time, coarse steel wool plugged gaps where an inner log wall met the ceiling of a dining room that had been added onto the house.

I could handle knowing there was a black snake around and taking care of the mice population.

It was when they began to take run of the whole house that I became unnerved. They being multiple black snakes. Within a week’s time, a total of 15 feet of black snake made its way down from the attic, in the form of just three of them. They were 4, 5, and 6 feet long.

Two of the three, as mentioned earlier, were caught and driven to and released in nearby apple orchards.

I’m not counting the black snake found crawling up the outer rock surface of the house on a sunny morning, presumably looking for its entryway under the eaves.

This is a neighborhood where less than a year after I moved out, the first of a handful of rattlesnakes was discovered along the road going in.

I’ve tried to acclimate. Honestly, I have. I’ve held plenty of them in trying to relate.

Part of an earlier relationship was spent around a young lad who fancied bringing every living creature imaginable into the farmhouse. It included snakes, of course.

On a lawnmower two years ago I repeatedly dodged a small garter snake determined to peak its head above the sod, to see what all the racket was in my mother’s yard. Another case of good snake karma. My mistake was telling my devout Catholic mother that it was out there.

Then, one day last week I came across what I thought to be a large shed skin in the crack between the sidewalk and grass edge not far from the garter snake’s den. Immediately my mind measured it to be a much larger snake than my buddy in the blocks. A second of anxiety set in when I realized the only nearby hideaway for one of that size would be under our storage shed under the deck.

But I was calmed when I saw the black garter a day later, and that its size matched the shed and its own black and yellow markings seemed to be more vivid.

So there is no python living under our deck.

I will continue to be a patient landlord to our black and yellow boarder in the blocks and the name of good snake karma.

I may need it later.

Contact B.J. Small at bjsmall@comcast.net. Follow on Twitter @Arrows2010

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