Greetings blogosphere. July has come and gone and found me in two places. I spent some 4th of July time in Wyoming among the Poppies and crows, and earlier this week, I spent some time on top of Monroe Mountain in Utah. The peculiar thing about both trips is I had a close encounter with two serpents (he-he). I was waiting at the launch of the Salt River in Wyoming, just casually sitting with my legs extended on a river bank when I felt a little slithering tongue tickle my leg. When I finally registered what was non happening, I started kicking my legs while scootching myself backward in this crab-like motion. Then this full body of a striped serpent recoiled and uncoiled and slowly slithered into the bushes.

A few weeks later, I was quietly reading a book near a lake while my husband fished, and when I got up to leave, there was a tiny snake curled up next to me warming itself in the sun. It had been right beside me basking the whole time. Being the crazy semi-superstitious woman that I am, I had to find deeper meaning in all this happenstance.

I’ve had other encounters with snakes. My neighbors had a garden snake that liked to surprise me when I walked home from elementary school. I’d be casually walking on the sidewalk and this garden snake would slither across my path right in front of me beneath the grid of a chain link fence. Walking that path home from school everyday with the thought of any possible reptilian surprise thrilled and enthralled me. One day I was preoccupied, not thinking about the snake at all and I felt something underfoot, as if I had stepped on a piece of deflated bicycle tire. I realized it was that snake but as per usual it did not slither back and make a b-line for the garden. It lied there limp and motionless. The thrill was gone. Of all the places I could have stepped, I unknowingly stepped on it’s tiny little head. I felt terrible. I recall thinking how strange it was that this slithering mass had such a fragile head like an achilles heel. It was as if the intimidation factor were gone. Everything was fragments and the key factor was realizing which fragment was the most vulnerable, the rest was distraction.

I’ve accidentally and harmlessly stepped on snakes camping as a child, walking dirt roads, thinking I had stepped on a stick, only to find they were much more animated. There were a few times when my family would go camping near a creek and snakes had got into our sleep sacks. That was a good lesson on keeping the tent zipped tight. Then there’s the case of the random snakes found throughout my yard. I’ve only encountered one rattle snake on a dirt road which I was happy to view from the cab of a truck with the window rolled down. Just recently I read a story about someone who found a rattle snake in their tree right here in Suburban Cottonwood heights. I guess the story jumped out at me, because I’ve had snakes on my mind.

My mother had a snake crawl out from a hole in her fireplace once and it slithered behind her television set. So weird, so random, and I was there when it happened. I worked four years on a medical unit and only came across one patient who had been rattlesnake bit. One of my favorite movies has been I Dreamed of Africa. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone (possible spoiler) but a snake bite fits into the plot big time and a bunch of snakes are released into the wild as a memorial and it’s such a beautiful tribute. All these snakes slithering away in a clear creek, their bodies matching the wave-like dunes of caked mud and classical music. My thoughts are, I don’t have any problems with snakes, it’s when they catch me unaware, that really throws me.

You know, the book of Genesis starts out with a snake. There was Adam and Eve and then there was this snake. The snake of course is the key figure to the fall of man and ya-da ya-da. The snake beguiled Eve and snakes have been represented as villains ever since. So of course having had religious innuendo and symbolism shoved my way my entire life, I had to ponder, has all this recent happenstances I’ve had with snakes been a bad omen? I had some serious contemplation about how both encounters made me feel.

On my first encounter at the launch, I was off in a day dream. I was waiting to do something that normally made me feel fearful. Water is not particularly my favorite element. I was also having warm thoughts for a friend who recently took a trip to Guatemala where she had encountered an indigenous healer who was going to perform a ritual for a situation she was having with her boy that had been weighing heavily on her. Far out I know. She gave me an approximation on the time of her ritual, and with the time difference, it put her ritual in the afternoon, about the same time I encountered that snake. Eek! I told her beforehand, I’d think on her in that time frame and send her all the good ju-ju. I’m not saying it’s weird, but it’s weird. Snakes are very powerful figures in Latin American culture especially the feathered serpent.

At the time, my sporadic, impulsive mind did not like the sensation of having my leg tickled by the tongue of a snake. I looked down thinking I was just going to be swooshing away some flying insect or grasshopper and there was that snake coiled against my leg. I mean, it really did no harm. It almost felt friendly like being licked by a dog. I know that snake’s forked tongue licked my flesh though. There’s no doubt. That is a sensation I will never forget.

I also noticed its tongue as much as I noticed the snake. Did I just happen to be in it’s way, or was it drawn to my body temperature? If I had just kept my leg still, what was it’s next move? I even wondered what my leg tasted like, and how did the snake perceive it? Snake tongues are so tiny and delicate, like the flutter of a sporadic moth on a flashlight. Could it taste my spray on sunscreen? It made me wonder how many sensory receptors are on the tongue of a snake. How does a snake’s tongue influence their perception of the natural world?

Later that day, we had some incidences on the river. We lost one paddle. One of our blow up kayaks had a slow leak and had to be pumped up half way through our stretch and we had a sketchy incident with our dog where she jumped to the bank at a bad spot. The vegetation along the bank appeared to be flush but it most certainly was not. Without any forewarning, our dog leaped from our kayak and got caught in the bramble of some branches, the water’s current working against her, her leg caught.

My husband and I immediately pulled to the side of that deceptively obscure embankment. My husband shouted an order to me to watch out for a notched branch from a log that was protruding from the water. That notch turned out to be a valuable hand hold I hung onto while holding the raft in water up to my chest while my husband leaped to the rescue of our dog. The muddy bank slipped beneath my feet as my husband clawed through branches to retrieve our pet. Not even a life jacket was going to get her out of that one. Crisis averted, dog rescued, and my dog learned a valuable lesson that day. The best place to be was on the raft. It was such a relief.

Moving along to my second snake encounter a few weeks later, I was sitting on volcanic rock that dusted the shores of a still lake in the golden hour of morning reading the novel Dune. I was completely captivated by the book, and that is a blog post for another day. My husband and our same dog stayed with me a short while, then slowly wandered to the other side of the lake but I was too entrenched in my book to notice. My husband wandered back and said, “What was Yoko playing with earlier?” (Yoko is our dog). He said, “I think it was a stick, but it might have been a snake.”

I was like, “Oh where?” and I got up to look for it. When I got up there it was sitting right next to me curled up without any intention of moving while the sun warmed its flesh. I could not tell if the snake just enjoyed that spot and it’s warm blooded body needed the heat of morning sunrise, or if it sought safety and protection from me because the dog had been about. If so, I’m glad that I could be of assistance, and it’s an odd thing having the trust of a snake. It felt weird that the snake and I had some unspoken understanding. It felt surreal to think I was lost in a story about sand worms and crawlers with a snake coiled up beside me.

Later that trip, my husband and I needed to pack up. We remarked how odd it felt to just get used to the altitude and the ebb and flow of the mountain, as if we’d gone ferrel, just to have to go back down to civilization. Storm clouds were brewing big time making the heat less odious, but the trip down the mountain a little more sketchy. My husband had me drive our side by side down the mountain because he was hauling our sheep trailer and he did not want to have that much weight going down steep switch backs. I had the dog with me of course and just as we got started on our journey on the steepest part of the mountain the rain came down in sheets.

I was reminded of a flash flood story my mom had told me that she and my dad had encountered on the other side of that same mountain while boulders came crashing down around them. I had recollections of stretches of muddy road getting saturated or washed away. To make things worse the rain was impacting my visibility to the point where I had to stick my head out the side window just to see due to no windshield wipers. I don’t know if I was keeping the dog calm or if she was keeping me calm. I felt alive though and the rain smelled incredible. Exerts from Dune came back to me. I kept telling myself, Fear is the mind killer, fear is the mind killer. I continued to take it slow marveling at the views. They were both spectacular and terrifying and I guess that’s how I view snakes.

I’ve had many thoughts that sent me down that mountain solo with my dog that day or down the Salt River in Wyoming weeks earlier when normally I am fearful of currents and murky water. I’ve had irrational fears about moss and depths beneath me which I can not see. I am sure there is a name for this. I have not been my best self as of late. My thoughts were literally this: F*ck it! This has been a hard couple of years. There couldn’t possibly be anything more harrowing on that mountain or river I have not endured as of late that can even hold a candle to these irrational fears. So I put them aside, and realized that tribulations are fears that helps one conquer other fears. They give one courage for what is to come. They condition us.

Not to rustle anyone’s feathers but I’ve had it with Global “demics” (pan or epi-) leadership on the world stage that thrives on thuggery and intimidation, toxic patriarchy, (Are we really doing this sh*t again?) the political discourse that amounts to nim, the mass shootings, the endless gloom on climate change, impending financial crisis minced with inflation, and the shocking behavior of people closest to me that have made me question their judgement against reality, theirs and mine.

I’ve had such a gross aversion for all of it. I’d almost rather encounter a flash flood in the wild at this point. I’ll take my chances with a snake, bear, coyote, river, or anything from the natural world. I ponder this: Is this relevant to Eve flailing? Is this how people become ferrel and get lost in the woods? Is it true that our quintessential all mother Eve became beguiled by a snake in a garden? Was she running around scantily clad with leaves in her hair unencumbered by the troubles of a developing society that would rise to existence due to her error? Was the fall of Eve and her fellowship with a snake really just a masculine tale that would legitimize the rise of oppression for all women for eons of time? (Hell yeah-I’m pissed about the Draconian ruling of you know what) Could the single ancestor of all women and a snake be led to account for all this? A shunning from a natural paradise into a world forged by patriarchal religion and the ravages of war? I am sure there is something symbolic and deeply anthropological about snakes. Medusa had snakes in her hair. She could turn men into stone.

Well, I must not read too much into this. Please bear with me. I struggle. I’m processing as much as I can in my own way. All I’m saying is that I had two snake encounters over the last few weeks, and they were rather nice. I decided they were just a couple docile snakes, perhaps curious seeking snakes, doing their thing, and meant no harm. I looked up snakes and symbolism and this is what the Internet had to say (and well you know…the Internet is always right, wink-wink).

1). Snakes represent rebirth, transformation, immortality, and self-realization. So much symbolism in the shedding of old skin for new.

2). The Ouroboros is a symbol of eternity. The snake head wrapped around its own tail.

3). Snakes are symbols of fertility and femininity (Thanks Eve).

4). Snakes are seen as protectors and healers. See the symbol of Caduceus.

5). Snakes represent Earthiness, ritual, primal energy and wisdom.

6). Snakes are associated with charm, seer-ship, and oracles.

7). A snake’s venom is the poison AND the cure.

8). Snakes can be affiliated with the under world or demise.

9). Snakes represent graceful movement and travel.

10). In Pre-Columbia Mayan mythology the snake was the conduit between the living, the dead, and ancestors. Snakes were seen in creation as carriers of Celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, and stars across the sky.

I hadn’t intended for this blog post to go so deep into snakes. In actuality, I wanted to write my feelings on all the wonderful escapism and profound insights I have been garnering from reading Dune and watching Stranger Things. A series that has taken me back a few decades, to a nostalgic time before this, pondering current events and representations of the upside down in my own life.

I tell you being enraptured with Stranger Things and the Dune Universe has made for some outlandish dreams. Dune has had me pondering a future re-imagined, working with limited resources, and survival against all odds, and I’ve garnered profound strength from both tales, and hopes of planting seeds for a better vision of tomorrow. The outcomes of which I may never see. Dune was ahead of it’s time. Stranger Things reminds me of Times that were not these. The creepy crawlies beneath the sands of Arrakis and tunnels beneath the fields of Hawkins Indiana playing into both tales big time. Sometimes courage has to come from myth. Sometimes when things seem depleted and in low supply, stories are the best place to draw strength from, creepy-crawlies, snakes, and all.

Until Next Post!

Rachelle Whiting

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