Stopped to admire a massive old Sycamore in Mammoth Cave NP, and met another tree hugger vining down the trunk. This Black Rat Snake -- Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta, was well over 4' long.
We snake along with a poem by Pablo Neruda, "Animal of Light" --
'I am in this endless lack of solitude
an animal of light corralled
by his mistakes and by his foliage:
the forest is wide: here my brother creatures
swarm, back away, or roam around,
while I retreat accompanied
by the escort that time chooses:
waves of the sea, stars of the night.
It is small, it is wide, scarce and is everything.
My eyes from looking into so many eyes
and my mouth from so many kisses,
from having swallowed the smoke
of the trains that vanished:
the old merciless stations
and the dust of countless bookshops,
the man I am, the mortal, weary
of eyes, of kisses, of smoke, of roads,
tired of books thicker than the earth.
And today, deep in the lost forest
he hears the rustling of the enemy and flees
not from the others but from himself,
from the interminable conversation,
from the choir that used to sing with us,
and from the meaning of life.
Because one moment, because one voice, because one
syllable or the passing of one silence
or the undying sound of the wave
leave me face to face with the truth,
and there is nothing left to decipher,
nothing more to say: that was all:
(pause for those unweary of caressing)
the doors of the forest are closed,
the sun circles opening the leaves,
the moon rises like a white fruit,
and man suits himself to his destiny.' ~ "Animal of Light" by Pablo Neruda, 1971, trans. by William O'Daly