As promised, here my story of the snake that told time….
In 2005, I was in ceremony with White Eagle (medicine Keeper of the Origin Teachings of the Delicate Lodge) near Abiquiu, New Mexico. I camped on the land, in the shadow of the Cerro Pedernal with about 9 other people. We lived very simply; cold-water hose showers and pit toilets. We gathered for story telling, lessons, fire building, medicine wheel training and spent time in solitary contemplation.
One of the highlights of this area is the amazing vistas common to New Mexico. Georgia O’Keefe used to drive out to this land, set up her canvas in the back seat of her car and paint. The ground is covered with thorny cacti and alive with large red and black ants. (A little aside, there are 241 species of ants in New Mexico.) The cliffs are multi-colored red, brown, buff; limestone, sandstone, shale and a lot of clay. Pinion, sage and beautiful ancient Junipers stand watch over the land. Below the cliffs of White Eagle’s land, runs the Rio Chama.
We each chose our “spot” for contemplation. It was a place to which we would return regularly that week. Most chose some point along the cliff line. I found a spot along a wash that had an amazing vista of the green valley on the other side of the ravine. I could see mesas in the distance which would have been in the general direction of Ghost Ranch. Two Junipers stood guard at my spot and the land fell away between them in stair-step fashion where seasonal rains had carved their natural pathway toward the river.
One day, after White Eagle had sent us out for solitary contemplation, instructing us to return at a specific time, I arrived at my spot suddenly realizing that I did not have my watch. One of the things I loved about my spot compared with sitting at the edge of the cliff was that I could not see any of the other participants and they could not see me. So, I could not rely on someone else to be my timekeeper.
I was debating about whether or not to make the trek back to my tent for my watch when I spotted a large snake resting about 5 feet away and just down the wash from where I was sitting. As always, when I see that spotted pattern on the back of a snake, I check the tail. No rattles, phew! It was likely a variety of gopher snake. It was a good 4 feet long, and was resting with its hind half in the sun and its upper half in the shade rising up a ledge. A bulge gave away the fact that it was digesting a recent meal.
I struck a deal with the snake. I said “When you move, snake, I will know that it is time to return to the medicine wheel.”
I then proceeded with my contemplation and journaling. All this time, the snake never moved.
As time passed, I got a little antsy. I asked myself “OK, are you going to put full faith in this snake?”
“Yes,” I replied. So, I waited and meditated some more.
Eventually, the snake began to move ever so lazily, heading further down the gully. “Now’s the time,” I told myself and I got up to make the journey back. Just then, I spotted one of the other participants some distance away making his way back to camp.
Snake’s timing is precise.
I’ve been writing about dawdling and losing track of time. I have a desire to be able to fall into that lost space, that pure presence without an eye on the clock. This has led me to fashion most of my days with enough flexibility to muse, wander, get lost in a project.
I’ve learned to rely on the partnership of animals. If I need to get out for a walk, Callie, the local dog, will show up at my door and bark to invite me to head out to the woods. I trust her instincts and, if it’s at all possible, I drop everything and go.
When hummingbird comes up to my window and hovers right in front of my face for a moment, I know it is time to add a little variety and joy to my day.
When I was in need of solitary time, bobcat made a regular appearances day and night. My neighbors, who have lived here over 20 years, have never seen a bobcat, and I was seeing this one regularly.
Squirrel reminds me to plan ahead and hawk shows up when I need to get some distance on a subject.
Last weekend, 2 snakes appeared near my front door, while another showed up on my walk yesterday.
In January, I participated in a Tarot Pilgrimage with Pamela Eakins of Lightning Spiral Mystery School. At the pilgrimage we pulled a card for each month of 2009. My card for June depicts two serpents. Nice synchronicity.
Animals, seasons, trees, flowers, they are all speaking to us all the time. They are all willing partners. Whether or not we listen is up to us. It takes trust and a leap of faith and, in my experience, it is trust well invested and faith well founded and well rewarded.
How have animals partnered with you? I’d love to hear your stories and invite you to share them in the comments section below.
Note: for anyone interested in learning more about animals as messengers or looking for a great Tarot deck and book, here are three great resources:
Animal Speak by Ted Andrews
Medicine Cards (book and cards) by Jamie Sams and David Carson
Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins
Copyright(c) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved