17 August 2016

Yard Adventures: The Pool, Me And A Rattlesnake

We've been having quite a few adventures with creatures, living here on the mountain. It's been an eye-opening experience to say the least. I mentioned when I shared with you at some point about our next door neighbors sharing their night-vision cam images of deer and bear going through their yard at night. 

With the cute and fun comes also the scary. We have an apple tree in our backyard and have been told that it is prime bear snacks come fall. Yikes. Since moving we have enjoyed a wide range of birds around out home. We had to buy a birds of New Mexico book because we were so curious about all the different birds we were seeing. The bunnies are so cute but seem to be the blame for diseases spreading.

Almost nightly if we pay attention, we see deer walking through the yard, down the hill on the north side of the house and sometimes the south side of the yard. They often walk in packs and lately there have been lots of cute males with fuzzy antlers. The antlers are just too cute. This little guy above was standing outside our living room windows last week foraging.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a walk in our neighborhood and saw a mama dear with two babies that could not be more than a day or two old. The Man and I saw them again last Friday and those babies are so cute and still to tiny. I told my neighbor friend about them on Monday and she saw them the next morning in her backyard and texted me at 6:20 in the morning.

I am careful to strictly obey the 15-20 mph speed limits in our neighborhood because you never know when a deer or several will walk into the road...or snakes, or bunnies, or who knows what else.

Let me share with you the most terrifying thing that has happened to me so far. A few weeks ago The Man and Kiddo had just minutes before left the house for Kung Fu classes. I had been working out in the pool and was planning to relax for a few minutes before heading inside. As I lazily floated in the middle of the pool I opened my eyes and it seemed as if suddenly I was in some strange hazy dream. I felt as if someone had flashed my face with a high voltage flashlight, my eyes were blurry and just seeing blurry gray and my entire body seemed to go ballistic with adrenalin. I looked again a few feet away from me trying to understand what I was seeing -- and there was a rattlesnake dangling in the pool drinking.

I immediately and quickly began making my way to the other side of the pool trying not to make waves or do anything that would call attention to myself as I knew the snake would move much more efficiently in the water than I could. I flew up the pool ladder and stood on the far side of the pool. It was at this point I realized my cover-up, towel and shoes were all within a foot of the snake, who by now was back in the bushes -- RIGHT NEXT to the walkway and stairs back into the house. At this moment I also remembered that I had locked the door that went to the other side of the house, into our master bedroom. I was stranded with no shoes and no safe way back into the house.

By now the adrenalin overload was too much for my body to handle and I was crying somewhat hysterically. There was a small hope that The Man might just drop off Kiddo at Kung Fu then return home and head back to his class an hour later. I prayed and prayed and prayed that he had come home and would hear me or look out and see me. Otherwise The Man and Kiddo would not be home for hours. I didn't have my phone outside with me.

With the heat being over 100 degrees that day, if there was one snake out there were others and could be all over the yard. So I stood there and panicked and cried  for a while (adrenalin rushes of that kind will wreck you!) trying to think of what I could do and after some time there were no viable options, meanwhile there were hornets and yellowjackets and other bugs flying around me and I was standing there in my bathing suit feeling ridiculously vulnerable.

I decided to try to get to the master bedroom door and just see if by any chance I could get it open or it had been unlocked. I tiptoes gingerly around the pool, up the railroad tie staircase (great in bare feet!) and banged and banged on the door but it would not open. I could see that the door to our bedroom was shut, so even if The Man had come home, he would not hear me banging if he was upstairs in the kitchen. Then I had to get back to the pool area. I stood for quite a few more minutes in my original spot at the far side of the pool, crying again not knowing what to do and terrified that that snake would strike if I tried to make a run for the house.

A few minutes later I got my break when I saw a snake come out of the same bush and go across the stairs and into a flowerbed. I watched him until I could see that his head was a good 10 feet in the opposite direction of the stairs and I very gingerly and speedily leaped across the north side of the pool where he had been hiding in the ivy and ran up the stairs as fast as I could to the back door, leaving my shoes and towel and all behind.

My heart was racing again like crazy when I got up the stairs of the deck to the back door. I opened the screen and turned the doorknob, only to realize that The Man had locked the door -- pure habit -- and had not been thinking -- he knew I was in the pool and we had just talked before they left the house.

All I wanted to do was get into that house! Being locked out I began playing out scenarios of how many hours I would be sitting out in my bathing suit in 100+ degree temps and creatures everywhere before they came home. My shoes were still down at the pool, the snake was between me and the shoes and my towel. I had one more option and this one terrified me too.

I could run from the backyard around to the front of the house but I knew there were lots of potential dangerous creatures that way, big ants, and of course every possibility of running into another snake. Plus it's rough terrain and not safe at all in barefeet. I could not handle the thought of seeing another snake. My only hope was finding an unlocked door on the front side of the house. There's no garage keypad panel outside to open the garage door and my only hope was of a door that might not be locked. My anxiety level at this point was about a 15 on a scale of 1-10. I was pretty sure that if I got to the front and was still locked out that I might just lose it.

By this point I was so desperate, so exhausted from the stress and so determined to get inside the house and I knew I had to at least get my flip flops to make the trip to the front of the house. I ventured back down the stairs and slipped them on my feet and grabbed my towel, which at that point felt like a suit of armor compared to what I was currently dressed in. I looked for the snake again and didn't seen it and quickly ran back up the stairs and continued right around the house, out the gate and then started the adventure of getting to the front yard. Every stick looked like a snake to me and I was probably in a full sprint even though I didn't realize it.

I got around to the front door and it slid open and our dear dog met me at the door. I've never been so glad to see him and so glad he wasn't outside with me while this was all going on. That would've added exponentially greater stress to it all. I was so freaked out that I felt like I really needed to talk to someone, but not one of the people I called answered their phones. So I sat in the living room in my wet bathing suit and towel and stared at the TV until about 30 minutes before I knew the family would be home. They I dragged myself down to the shower and got cleaned up and started working on dinner.

When the family did come home I met them in the driveway and had another sob when I could finally really let loose and tell them what happened. But based on the extreme adrenalin rush I had when I first saw that snake it was no wonder my entire body was a little crazy the rest of that day, heart still pounding, etc.

So now when any of us go to the pool, we have determined it's a good idea to always have a cell phone (what if I had been bitten and there were no neighbors nearby and I could not get into the house?!) to make sure both doors to the backyard are unlocked, and to bring two pairs of shoes and put one pair on each side of the pool. These safeguards are by no means foolproof - the cell phone could always be on the snake's side of the pool and unretrievable. There could be snakes on both sides of the pool...there are any number of ways these strategies could fail. But they certainly can't hurt.

I was brave enough to get back in the pool two days later with Kiddo. It was good to break the "scary spell" and just get back in the water again although I don't know that I will swim alone any time soon and certainly not when I am home alone. In general it's not safe to swim alone, but I do wear a workout belt when I am in the water and there are usually people coming and going in and out of the house. But, yeah, I won't be out there when home alone even if it is for just five minutes.

Since we had not seen any snakes in our backyard, within the retaining walls, I was living in ignorant bliss back there until that day thinking all the snakes were outside "the rim" but such is not the case and my relationship with our backyard is forever altered. I wanted to blame it on living on the mountain but our friends who live in subdivisions just a mile down the road report they have all had a lot of snakes this year. So I guess we've actually been quite lucky. We do see snakes crossing the road sometimes but certainly haven't found any in the house or garage or up against the house.

I have only shared this experience with one friend since then and even trying to write it just gives me the creepies so bad I can barely handle it. I honestly could not even talk about it for weeks because my body would go into complete anxiety/stress overload mode. Life on the mountain has changed a bit for me, but I know I need to get over it.

As I was thinking about this blog post I hear The Bachelor's Chris Harrison saying "Our most traumatizing blog post yet!" As the weeks have passed I'm getting a little less freaked out about it all, but I'll tell you I wrote this post the same week this happened and it stressed me out so badly just writing it that I could not finish it and definitely could not post it. So I've come a long way in my "recovery"! At least I don't feel like I'm going to have an actual heart attack now. That is big progress. Our very close relationship with Mother Nature here on the mountain continues. This week my husband pulled a Vinegaroon (horrifying creature, google it for an image), lizard and bat out of the pool and photographed another snake within the rim. Thank goodness there is a man living in our house as our protector, exterminator and park ranger!

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