D.H. Lawrence once said, “I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself…” and its a line from a poem I have never forgotten. The lesson in this, the lesson I’ve always taken with me as I have wandered through forests, by seasides, over mountaintops, across valleys or swamps, is simple but vital to my understanding of this world and its inhabitants. We have more to learn from the wild creatures that surround us than we’re probably capable of comprehending. We have more to learn of stillness, of endurance, of how to navigate a life taking only what we need and forgoing the excess. Humans stand alone in the animal kingdom in a multitude of categories, some good, some not so good, and we crown ourselves kings of the kingdom for those we seem to rise above the rest. What we miss in this, is all the aforementioned, all the lessons we have to learn from our furry, feathered, or scaled friends.
I’ve learned a couple lessons from snakes that have been coming in handy for me right now:
The first is that a non-venomous snake is a metaphor for fear. It may look all scary and make you uncomfortable but in the end, it has no power over you and no ability to hurt you. Just like fear.
The second is that snakes can teach us about transformation. They have to shed their skin or risk dying and that’s often the same with us. We have to let go of things in order to continue surviving and thriving.
These are both lessons that I’m carrying as I deal with my own fears and transformation.
The stillness is one of the reasons I love to hike. The wind in the pines whispering like my thoughts, telling me to hush and just be for a while. It's cleasing for my soul.
I take it as a huge compliment when a wild animal feels safe enough to be close to me. It reminds me to trust the things that feel safe.
I've had several memorable encounters with wildlife that stopped me in my tracks and to this day remind me of my own small existence. The first was an encounter with a black bear near my home in Alaska. I was walking a trail in late summer, and saw the "evidence" of bears eating blueberries. I crossed a stream and looked back at a sound, there on the bank where I'd been standing was a huge black bear. He sniffed the air, stood on his hind legs, sneezed, shook his head as if I stunk (he did), and then took off running up the trail towards where I parked my car. He seemed to say, this is my place not yours, and you are a small powerless creature that doesn't matter here.