Around the middle of June, Solstice-time in the glorious year of 2008, I was walking the arroyo next to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I live. I have been walking this route for over nine years now, often many times a week. During all these years I have never seen a snake. After living in the desert for over a decade, I know that snakes are bountiful in this area. But for some reason I had never come across one on my walks in this arroyo. On this exquisite June morning I passed a small snake. It could have been a so-called garden snake. I was happy to see it and said ‘hello’. “That was a first” I thought.
Same route about two weeks later. It is now beginning of July. All of a sudden there was another snake. Not a garden snake but a much bigger snake, probably a meter and a half. A rattlesnake. Its strong tail lay across my path and I sure noticed it. I was so taken that I not only said ‘hello’ but I sat down on the path and just marveled. I talked to the snake for a while and just sat with it mesmerized. After the longest time it started to move. First from the front and then the wave went through the whole body all the way to the end of the tail. The snake just glided forward, slowly and smoothly, but with intention and perseverance. I started to think about that in relation to life. Probably it is not a bad idea to move through life with strong intention. And there is something more. Moving slowly and methodically to get where you want to go, like the rattlesnake did, might not be such a bad idea. Probably it is wiser than gushing through projects and experiences with impatience and haste. “Good metaphor for life” I thought.
Now it is middle of July. Yet another morning walk. And a new phenomenon awaited me. Drought has been plaguing New Mexico for over a decade. Therefore the arroyo has been totally dry with a few exceptions in the winter when the snowmelt has trickled down, and has brought a small stream of water in few places. But today the scene was different. We have been blessed with really good rain showers in the last few days. Heavy, heavy rain. Now the arroyo was flooded with brown and muddy water coming down from the mountains. It covered most of the arroyo leaving only a few stones and sand tops peaking out. At first I tried to find a way to pass over by jumping from stone to stone or sneak over the sand tops. This worked for a while. Then no more. I finally came to a point where I couldn’t move forward without going into the water. I pondered my options. I could turn back and cut my walk short. Or I could simply wade into the water. I was wearing canvas sneakers and realized that even though my footwear wasn’t as good as waterproof sandals for this occasion, my shoes would not get damaged, only wet. They would dry quickly in the sun. I made a choice. I set out to continue my walk by stepping carefully into the stream of water, feeling its coolness engulf my feet, and sending a refreshing sensation throughout my body. I got bolder. Before I knew I was walking in the middle of the stream, and enjoyed the rush. As I got further up the arroyo and towards the big, green water tank next to St. John’s College, I realized that going back, I could avoid the water by taking another path next to the tank back to the car park. That would keep me totally dry.
Once I had walked my usual loop up into the Monte Luna hill, and came back to that particular spot, that crossroad, and had the choices of walking in water or no water, I once again choose the water. As I now joyfully and without hesitation walked straight into the flood, I started thinking that this could again be a metaphor for life. We all come to some kind of crossroads in our lives at one time or another, and need to choose a new path. Choosing the dry and easy path is a natural choice. But by doing that we might be depriving ourselves of the exhilaration of wading through murky waters, exploring new experiences, pulling on hidden strength, and freeing our inner child. Discoveries are made when we are willing to take the less obvious path, and open ourselves for something new.
As I walked in the same direction as the stream going back, I realized that in my own life, I want to follow the flow of life, the flow of opportunities and newness that all of life offers. I was not only happy in the stream, but I immensely enjoyed the thrill of feeling the softness of the water on my feet, of taking in the brown color of the earth, of sinking my feet into the mud, and feeling the creative forces of the universe all around me. I had made a choice. The choice was to join this new path, and join it fully. Not just dipping my toe into it, but fully emerging myself in it by stepping fully into the thick of it. It sure felt good. And I got excited about the experience while not knowing where it was going to take me. “Another metaphor for life” I thought.
Who says that Nature isn’t our greatest teacher? I have learned through time, that some of my best ideas, deep insights, new passions, and resolutions for my life’s lessons, can all be harneshed by spending time in Nature with our co-inhabitants. In this case, particularly snakes and water.