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.