Thursday, April 16, 2009
I don't like serpents. They're right up there with rodents in my personal bestiary of horrors. Don't get to use "bestiary" much, do you? So I've had two encounters with snakes-on-the-page lately. First, I spent many Sundays in church as a child. These masses usually but not always contained readings from the Hebrew Bible. But the Catholic lectionary is pretty limited; it tends to be the same passages read over and over again. The Episcopal Church has a much wider selection, so I;m often running up again Hebrew Bible stories that I don't know. So a couple of weeks ago, I'm listening to this reading from Numbers (21:4-9, for the more Bible literate), and the Israelites are journeying to the land of milk and honey, and some of them are complaining that they're thirsty because there's no water. And what does God do? He send "poisonous serpents" that bite people so they die. What? I don't remember any serpents after Joseph turns the Pharoah's staff into one. This really blew my mind.
So this week I'm reading the New Yorker and there's an article by Burkhard Bilger ("The Natural World: Swamp Things," link above) about exotic animals in Florida that have escaped from pet stores or homes, and are living in the wild there, many in the Everglades. The most troubling of these animals (to me) are the Burmese pythons. There are a lot of them already, and they're breeding. At one point he mentions that there are so many that if you account for a hundred years of global warming, the pythons could be living in New York City by 2100. This is so freaked me out I had insomnia.