While most teachers can regale you with stories about memorable students, both angelic and demon-possessed, most often our best stories are about our own epic classroom failures.

Once upon a time a friend of mine, Anne, was really and truly wound up, delivering a passionate lecture on Thoreau and his year at Walden Pond to a room full of 16-year-olds. She was on a serious roll.

Eyes blazing, cheeks flushed and waving her personal dog-eared paperback copy of Thoreau to the class, she knew every eye was riveted on her. This was one of those magic adrenaline-washed  moments that we all dream of.

skin painting 2

Time for the Big Finish.  Voice ringing with emotion, she declared “Ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you that if Thoreau was in front of you right now, he would say ‘Throw off your fine designer clothes, grab your hoes and head for the woods.'”

It pretty much took her the rest of the hour to peel those kids off the walls.

skin painting 1

Prepping these shots, I couldn’t help but think of Anne and those cast-off over-priced designer tee shirts she and Henry David Thoreau were railing against. Hard to say if the pine snakes from my last post are big fans of Thoreau or not, but they do cast off their fine garments from time to time.


  1. Jane Lurie says:

    Great story! Love your images to accompany. Fascinating.

  2. Lignum Draco says:

    Thoreau? Who’s that?
    Whoosh – I can feel that blackboard eraser being thrown at my head. 🙂

    Love the photos.

  3. Karen Taylor says:

    Looks like the mesh armor of the Romans and other conquerors. They are the mighty snake of the north. Beautiful textures.

    • This is why ancients believed the snake could live forever or regenerate itself–they found the abandoned skins and assumed the snake had left one body and entered another. It’s all that plate “armor” that fascinates me.

  4. Marjorie says:

    You’ve captured that other life entered…..Brilliant. I had to wait until I could see these on my full screen. Oh the viewing on retinal screen!

  5. Pépé le Moko says:

    Beautifully done. Beautifully, Beautifully, Beautifully done.

    • Thank you very much, Pépé le Moko.
      Do such creatures live in your neck of the woods?

      • Pépé le Moko says:

        not that I have seen but I do know pine snakes are around….I find this whole piece hard to describe – and totally delightful….. at first glance it almost looks like glass then looking at largest magnification looks like our skin…I prefer the glass but on so many levels this is magical, funny, clever, amazing, intriguing..it conjures up imagery of lithefulness ( I know that is not a word but I want it to be) and makes me think of snakes in a whole new friendly way and I am awestruck by your find…isn’t there a word for when all of the elements come together this is perfect pitch….give me the word…,

    • My very very first reaction to the skin was that the center dip looked like a part of the Milky Way or the entry to a black hole. Vortex-like. And cosmic.
      I am no biologist, but I would think/suggest that if we searched diligently, the pattern here exists over and over again in other facets of nature: skin, bark, hair growth. Can’t prove it, but we all have those “Hey! That looks like _____!” moments. Our universe is like a piece of art where the elements continue to repeat themselves. It’s why we love and seek out patterns, I think.
      A harmonic convergence? 🙂
      I’m glad that you liked the shots–I did soften the first two to look more painterly. I too have developed a more friendly feeling toward snakes since these encounters.
      And this is soooo shallow, but watching the big snake climb up the wood pile, all I could think about was “Wow! That really takes some core strength to do that!”

  6. sedge808 says:

    makes me a little itchy 😉

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