Burning a noose of snakeskin

Hex likes to shed his skin and to poo at the same time. I found him this evening nonchalantly sitting under his rock having made a right mess of his terrarium. The skin he had shed though – it was remarkably neat. He made a perfect little noose, and then he went through it. I put him on my head, shiny and new, and I started cleaning up.

He immediately removed my glasses, and then settled against the warm bits and started snuffling in my ear innocently as he watched me sort out his mess.

This perfect noose of skin was surrounded by his stinky pellets. When I took the time to notice, it was as if he had made the perfect topical present, keying into so much of my work towards myself at the moment. Going all the way through nooses and shedding skin and basic snake imagery – these were all things that came up in the woods very clearly. I’m not one to overlook a chance for ceremony. So I made use of his old discarded skin.


It’s full moon tonight, with the wind bringing in a cleansing rain. The pubs might be open but I’m not feeling it. I banked up a fire in the fire pit on Mel’s balcony. I wrote out a load of stuff I needed to burn for good – stuff I’d been carrying that there’s no room for any more.

I made a fire and burnt some writing, and I put the shed skin in the hottest part of the fire and sent it up with the rest of the crap. I did my usual thing of improvising a ritual. Closing off the changes from the woods with the Skinner. Literally mixing metaphors as I do.

Then I dumped rocks on the fire and sat in drizzle until I was happy it was extinguished and wasn’t going to burn down anybody’s Hampstead pied a terre. Practicality is still present alongside my improvised mysticism.

I went back into the flat stinking of acrid burnt snakeskin. I’m learning smells through Hex.

Snake is a very specific smell. Unmissssnakeable. I’ll be like Indiana Jones now. I’ll know if I’m in a snake pit by smell.

Mouse too, although it’s a bit less of a concern to be thrown into a mouse pit. I know the mouse smell from all the puppeting back when Hex wasn’t eating properly. And from opening the packet near his nose to waft the tempting yummy mousey smell…

Burnt snakeskin isn’t as unique a smell but it clings. It’s in the same world as burnt hair and nails. Familiar and sharp. You don’t want it in your face when you’re sleeping. It stuck to me as I came back into the flat.

I had a hot bath and moisturised. Yeah baby. Now I smell of coconut.

I’m tucked up in bed listening to the wind and rain outside. Sometimes that can be one of the most beautiful feelings in the world. To be safe and warm in a storm.

I’m right on the edge of the heath. Occasionally there’s a fox, yarking like it’s stuck on a fence, firing all the instincts of the idiot local dogs. “Gaaaark gaaaark!” once. “Rolf Rolf Rolf Rolf Rolf” for ages.

Occasionally there’s an owl too, staking territory for the hunt. “Screw youuuu, it’s myyyy shreeew!”

But right now it’s too rainy for foxes. It’s too windy for owls. No owl in its right mind is gonna trust big wings and hollow bones to these unpredictable gales. The shrews will be holed up for the night as well, snug in their little hole. And so am I.

Summer has taken a sabbatical. She’ll be back. Plenty of time left thank God, even though we’ve spent the best of it locked in our own homes, and the days are already getting shorter again. I’m going to enjoy this storm for now and let it blow away old terrors and unpleasantnesses.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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