The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life
by Meg Hutchinson

Part 1

One afternoon I came across a dead snake lying sprawled across the trail—
Its head mashed into the gravel.
I lifted it between two sticks
And set its graceless body in the tall grass. 

Hours later, I found two boys with fishing rods. 
They were about eight or nine years old, 
searching intensely there beside the lake. 

“What did you lose?” I asked them.
“Our snake,” they said. 
“I found a snake. I put it in the tall grass. Why did you kill it?” I asked. 

“Oh, we didn’t kill it, 
we found it dead
so we tied it to some fishing line and we put it in the lake.” 

“Why the lake?” I asked. 
“Well because we thought we could catch a very large fish.”     

“Did you?” I asked. 
“No, we caught nothing.”
“Why do you want the snake?” 
“We are just looking for the tracks of whatever took it.” 
“I am the whatever that took it. Would you like to see?” I asked. 

They nodded. 
I led them down the bank to a sheltered spot where I had laid its body out. 
Both boys grew silent. 
When I looked up one was crying softly. 
I knew he was the boy who had crushed the snake’s head with a rock.

Part 2

What does this have to do with the meaning of life? 
I am just the writer. 

It is still unclear who is the snake, who are the boys, what is the lake. 

But right now, all over this splendid earth, 
there are people willing to do anything to get the biggest worm
to catch the biggest fish. 

Okay, I lied. I am also both boys and the snake. 

It is not too late yet
for us all to kneel down in the tall grass and weep.



Meg Hutchinson is an award-winning songwriter, poet, and recording artist on Red House Records and has toured widely in North America and Europe. Meg is a mental health advocate and speaks about recovery at conferences, schools, and hospitals nationwide. Meg is currently a Dean’s Fellow in the MDiv program at Boston University’s School of Theology and is training to become an interfaith chaplain.