Grumpy snakes encountered on breezy hot May afternoons offer surprises. At marsh’s edge, I discovered a svelte three-footer, an eastern black racer, wedged in eel cage mesh where it slithered to shed its old skin in too tight a compass. Exhausted from the exertions of sloughing two skins, eel pot and dermis, in one go, it hung slack while I worked its soft body, frayed with bits of its old self, through the wire until with listless hiss it dropped into the wrack of dried reeds and shatters. A second – this an irritable banded king snake – confronted me hauling the offending cage back to the barn. Stand-off. Encoiled, encurled, feigning aggression for the easily fooled, it relinquished no ground nor would it strike. Detour. On dockward return, no grumpy snakes appeared, the light trace of their passing invisible – only the track of the meditation they occasion remains. I like snakes well enough, but then I always wash my hands after a liberating moment.