October 23, 2006


My students are always trying to educate me. Horrified that I watch so little television, they feel it's their duty to teach me about pop culture so that I won't embarrass myself at a party by saying something stupid like, "Reality TV? What's that?"

A few weeks ago, when we were talking about the death of Famous Crocodile Television Personality, I admitted that I'd read about the man on blogs and I'd listened to literature professors analyze his attitude towards nature, but I had not actually ever seen the show. Not even one minute of it. I didn't even know what Famous Dead Naturalist looked like. I had heard countless bad imitations of him, so I sort of knew what he sounded like. Well, at least, I knew he said the word Crikey a whole lot.

One of my students, who was writing a paper on Outdoors Guy Who Talked With Cool Australian Accent, brought a VCR tape to class one day and told me to watch it over the weekend. Everyone in the class chimed in: "You have to."

So over the weekend, With-a-Why and I settled in front of the television to watch the famous show. When I looked at which episode my student had handed me, I paused. The title was: Africa's Deadliest Snakes.


All my life, snakes have appeared in my dreams. I am not afraid of snakes in real life, partly because I live in a part of the country where snakes are harmless. But the snakes in my dreams are always vivid in color, nothing like the garter snakes or common water snakes that I am used to, and they terrify me. When I was a child, I would wake up from snake nightmares screaming. As an adult, I used to have dreams that I was back in the house that I lived in a child, and snakes would come rolling out of the walls. The multi-colored snakes of my childhood dreams have given way as I've gotten older to long green snakes, beautiful in color. I have assumed that these long green snakes, graceful and thin, winding their ways around tree branches, are harmless and simply a figment of my imagination.

As I've gotten older, I've tried to accept the snakes in my dreams. And the snakes that have appeared in my real life, sometimes in the strangest places, have come to mean positive changes. I am always finding snakeskins, and I usually accept them now, putting them on the edges of the bookshelves in my office as a reminder to myself to embrace change and transformation.

Still, I felt a little trepidation as I began watching the tape, an hour of Very Enthusiastic Famous Guy finding, touching, and releasing deadly African snakes. I was sure the show would give me nightmares. Lots of things surprised me about the show -- the televison persona of Famous Guy About My Age Who is Dead Now was actually quite different from what I expected. But the most startling thing of all was finding out that the long bright green snakes of my dreams are not imaginary at all.

The green mamba. The boomslang. I watched in fascination as they slithered along tree limbs, exactly like the snakes in my dreams. My dream snakes have names. They really exist, although on another continent. And it turns out they are not harmless at all. The snakes that have been appearing in my dreams lately are venomous and powerful.

I like that.


turtlebella said...

Yes, I was thinking, those long green snakes are not harmless!

So, what did you expect Courting Danger with Wild Animals Guy's show to be like? If it wasn't what you expected.

Finally, I'm glad that someone I 'know' has interesting, symbolic, and possibly deep dreams. Me, last night I dreamt about 90210 characters (cheesy 90s show about really.really rich kids in Beverly Hills)! ugh.

OneTiredEma said...

My stepmom (hipper than your average bear) starting teaching high school right out of college, and along the way she's always had students volunteering to mentor her in the Ways of Cool.

And I always used to confuse snakes or various kinds. A good friend was in the Peace Corps in Ghana and told me that a meeting (under a tree) was interrupted because of a black mamba. It wasn't until I read The Poisonwood Bible that I realized: "Holy shit! A black mamba was in a tree over her head! That'll kill you!"

Somehow I am not afraid of all snakes...I think because any one that I see (in the Northeastern US) I assume will not hurt me. Smart, huh?

Sara said...

How cool is that! You've been dreaming about these green mambas without even knowing about them, in your conscious waking mind at least. It makes me wonder if you saw a photo of one of these snakes before, in passing; or overheard a conversation or radio discussion in the background while focusing on something else; or... genetic memory? The brain is a truly marvelous thing.

kathy a said...

what a wonderful, rich story! i am also interested in how watching the actual show surprized you.

Dr.K said...

Back in September, I heard what I thought was a cicada, and went walking towards it to see what kind of cicada was making that odd buzz. It was a six-foot timber rattlesnake, and I just about jumped out of my shoes when I finally recognized it. It was the same reaction my cat had when she saw her first snake, a six-inch baby milk snake (a beautiful animal it was, too)--she went straight in the air about five feet. I do think that a reaction to snakes is programmed into us at a level well below what we're in control of. Your dreams come from some deep place, I bet.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I've never seen Famous Crocodile Television Personality either, not even on the computer. We don't have a tv (Graham does though, but doesn't watch that). And no one has brought me anything to watch to educate me.

I dream often of snakes too, but not those green ones. Cool that yours are so powerful! I had a dream of a huge rainbow snake. Later IU found out the Aborigines have rainbow snakes.

Leslee said...

*smiles* I love all the names you gave him!

Snakes... I'm rather not fond of them myself. I don't dream about snakes. And that's a good thing. Glad you have a name to call yours though.

jo(e) said...

What did I expect from the show? Well, the many imitations I'd heard or the discussions about Famous Guy Who Loves Dangerous Animals led me to expect this kind of macho, arrogant guy. And I expected him to be good-looking in an annoying Hollywood way, since he is a television personality.

Instead, he seemed like a grown-up version of the kind of student I get at Small Green -- a nerd, basically, who looks like a normal guy and who is passionate about animals. His enthusiasm was certainly contagious. I had expected to dislike him, but I found him completely likable.

Lilian said...

Hmmm, fascinating that you've been dreaming with actual snakes even though you didn't know of their existence.

Your expectations of him versus how you actually reacted to him is very interesting! I never watched much, only for a few minutes at a time while flipping channels in the few months/ years I had cable in the past 10 years (since I came to the U.S.).

On the day we died, however, we were visiting friends in Florida, and we switched to Animal Planet. I was fascinated by the various biographical programs they were showing about him. The way his wife met him (she's an American who visited his family's farm in Australia and instantly fell in love with him), the way he got his crew to film the birth of his first daughter and the reasons why he did what he did. His passionate views about the environment and the conservation of all animals was derinifely amazing and quite new to me. His death was a sad loss...

Anonymous said...

You are just so cool.

listmaker said...

My biggest phobia is snakes and I'm so thankful I rarely dream about them.

I'll never forget the day one of your colleagues at SmallGreenCollege went snake hunting with RT and the great delight they both took in my squirming (ok, it was really freaking out) when RT came back clutching multiple snakes in each hand.

Sarah Sometimes said...

hey you don't usually give the same person so many pseudonyms! wonder what that's all about?

I_Wonder said...

Intersting reading. I like your style.

As a child I had nightmares about snakes and forced myself to touch one when about 12. I live in Arizona with rattlesnakes. This summer, on two occasions, I almost stepped on a snake. It finally happened. The initial bite was about like an insect sting. I was lucky -- very lucky -- and don't plan on being so careless in the future.

Kristen said...

Snakes and spiders - big phobia here, and they appear in my dreams too. My dad had a huge snake living in his attic when he rented a 100-year-old house a few years ago. He could hear its heavy body gliding along the rafters at night. See, that would send me shrieking outside to my car, to find a hotel. And stay there forever. *shudder*

jo(e) said...

Kristen: Oh, the thought of a snake moving through my house would totally freak me out. I like snakes okay if they are outside, but the idea of one dropping from the ceiling -- well, that's the kind of thing that gives me nightmares.