Today, we are happy to bring you our conversation with Nicolette L. Cagle, author of SAVING SNAKES: Snakes and the Evolution of a Field Naturalist.
What inspired you to write this book?
The most immediate and honest answer is that snakes inspired me to write this book. Snakes have been a source of fascination and joy for me since childhood, and yet they are maligned and disappearing globally. This book is also my response to a deep yearning for people to flourish creatively and emotionally within a biologically rich world. For me, snakes are the touchpoint for that vision. If we can learn to value the beauty and lifeways of snakes, we can also learn to open our hearts to each other and live in a way that allows biodiversity to thrive.
What did you learn and what are you hoping readers will learn from your book?
I learned, and I hope others might as well, that the world’s wondrous creatures – snakes certainly included! – serve as an endless source of inspiration and hope. Snakes have so much to teach us. They can provide glimpses into medical advancements and biological evolution, but perhaps more importantly, by understanding our relationships to snakes we can better understand ourselves.
What surprised you the most in the process of writing your book?
The process of writing this book made me feel extremely vulnerable, as if I were exposing my own secrets along with those of the snakes. I became a Fox Snake, coffee-colored and brushed with chocolate-brown blotches, deep among the wide-open purple-cone flowers and dancing compass plants in the disappearing prairie, belly to the ground, vulnerable but committed to the dictates of my biology and environment.
What’s your favorite anecdote from your book?
I love to return to the quiet moments before a potential discovery, the moments in the book where my father lifts a piece of plywood or I lift a piece of tin, and I don’t yet know what will be beneath it. In those moments, anything could happen: a rare Massasauga rattlesnake might emerge or a tiny Ring-necked Snake could be flashing its bold belly at me, as brightly colored as one of Gauguin’s oranges, or there might be absolutely nothing beneath it at all. Those moments of anticipation and discovery have an endless power to renew my own sense of wonder.
Right now, I’m lifting up a piece of plywood in my own life – who knows what lies beneath!