Mr. Rattlesnake and Me
by Joanna D.
I see Mother Earth as the offerer of symbols, directional representations and spirit connectivity – something far more grand and divine than I. Sometimes these things scare me, like lightning that hits a bit too close or snakes. I am terrified of snakes.
My brother and I were heading into a weekend of camping, truck loaded up with two dogs and enough camping gear/food to last us much longer than we were going to be there. We had barely set out off the main road when he slammed on his breaks and veered off to the side. Worried he had hit something, he backed up to make sure he hadn’t. And he hadn’t. He pulled up next to a rattlesnake, who before we drove up on him (or her) was enjoying a nice lounge-about across the warm rocks of a remote dirt road, you can imagine the irrational sense of terror that welled up inside me as I sat safely inside the old trusty land cruiser. I mean, a land cruiser against this snake? I was obviously not in danger, in fact that snake was likely way more terrified than I, yet as we watched and listened to the warning sounds sent out by the effortless motion of his tail I kept noticing the wriggly dis-ease that crept its way up my spine. I was grateful as we drove away, that he was somewhere behind us and we didn’t have to see him again.
“There are underlying themes in Snake Symbolism and Meaning and one is definitely personal growth. Snakes shed their skin as they grow, so ask yourself – what do you need to shake off so you can expand your horizons.
Snake speaks heavily of old, outmoded ways of thinking and living that will hold you back until you’re ready for release. Once you do, the Snake’s metamorphosis process can begin within and without. The only caution is that the way in which you use your time and energy matters in this journey. Apply yourself to noble aspirations that provide balance and substance, and raise vibrational frequencies in your aura.” – SOURCE
We continued down the road at a leisurely pace, headed further into the Cibola National Forest outside of Magdalena, New Mexico. I was still thinking about that rattlesnake as we climbed elevation, the low sagebrush and shorter piñon trees morphed into old growth ponderosa and elegant elms. A surprising mix. The forest was beautiful, the temperature a nice, cool dream come true, and the stars were already popping out in astounding clarity. As the light through the trees continued to fade, an enormous bull elk showed up next to us, just off the road, holding a set of grand antlers above his massive head and broad chest. Majestic. We stopped and watched him, stunned to silence. He watched us too. Both interested and not interested at the same time. His seemingly indifference to our presence made the moment all the more spectacular. I’ve seen Elk before but this moment, it oozed of grace and significance. I wanted to climb up on his back and ride away into the forest. Instead, we parted ways and continued on.
“Elk medicine teaches us that by pacing ourselves we increase our stamina. Elk people may not complete a project first, but when it is done they have not burned themselves out. …
Animal spirit Elk reminds us of the importance of community, most especially fellowship with our same gender. … We are reminded by Elk that there is always support if we need it.
Elk also tells us to be aware of subtle changes around us and to be ready for a quick response.
Elk medicine stands for stamina, strength, nobility, pride, and survival.” – SOURCE
My brother was searching for a particular spot which involved looking for roads that didn’t seem much like roads to me at all. The main road was barely a road. All torn up and washed out from the spring runoff. Possibly many springs. And though there were two NFS lookouts up there, they were no longer in use, meaning the maintenance of these roads was not what it may have once been. And these offshoot roads we were searching through, looked more like overgrown pathways. By some miracle, after a few wrong turns and pit stops, we found the somewhat hidden road/not road he was searching for. It was completely dark. Time to set up camp. My brother hopped out and right there at his feet was a pristine larger than life wild turkey feather. “Hey! Look at this,” he exclaimed, “we were meant to find this spot.” With a bright smile on his face we started unloading the truck, fixing up a nice little fire and setting up our tents – the dogs went roaming around in absolute glee.
“The wild turkey has a distinctive gobbling call that can be heard across great distances; this call advertises the presence of the turkey, for purposes of mating or challenge. Wild turkey teaches you how to project your voice and your truths. It is important to know when to say your message, truths or opinion; and how to say it clearly and loudly enough that other people take notice. Wild turkey can help you to learn appropriate timing for sharing your voice with others.” – SOURCE
Once camp was set up we sat under the bright, clear sky. The stars piercing. The air clean and crisp surrounding a toasty and mesmerizing bonfire. We stayed up all night talking about everything and anything that came to mind. Pain and joy, struggle and triumph. It was so nice to be able to share like that with my oldest brother, Jake. I’m not sure we’ve ever had that opportunity. The lateness of the evening however, meant a lazy day followed. Naps, reading, food, walk – repeat. During my afternoon quiet time, I woke to see beautiful shadows displayed on the wall of my tent. The sun shining through the trees making shapes, delicate paintings shifting as the time passed and the breeze came through. I closed my eyes for maybe a minute, maybe ten, and when I opened them again there was an image of a little boy. He had a ball cap on. I thought, “I have to get a picture of that,” and as I reached for my camera I must have fallen asleep because when I looked again it was gone. Part of me thinks it was Harrison saying hello. He’s with us always. And though the loss of him remains indescribably painful, his memory lives on in ways that remind us of just how special he was. When I shared what I saw with Jake, his response was an immediate reflection of my own, we received a visit from his eldest son.
“A million different events happen in your day, and none of them stand out to you. When a seemingly benign event suddenly grabs your attention and makes you question if it’s a sign from your loved one in spirit…it probably is.” – SOURCE
Later on, our final night was accompanied by thunder and lightning. The LIGHTNING! A much different scene. Thankfully the rain mostly skirted us, leaving our camp dry yet highly entertained. We went to bed much earlier than the previous night, waking to delicious fresh brewed coffee and a nice, steamy breakfast, somehow more enjoyable simply because of our location. After a systematic camp cleanup, we drove out into the daylight forest, revealing a new perspective on our surroundings. While driving in the dark we hadn’t seen how extensively the mountains had burned. The landscape sat before us, ravaged by wildfire, possibly not more than a few years before. We drove in silence over the terrible washed out mountain roads, back and forth through the switchbacks and finally on to our decent. We took it all in. The stunning sight of burned out trees juxtaposed next to the vivid wildflowers popping up and out of a carpet of tall bright green grass. Life and death. Just incredible. Once again we found ourselves on the stretch of road where we said hello to Mr. Rattlesnake. Enjoying the breeze and the soft sent of sage as it blew through the open windows, I looked up to see a full on murder of crows circling and swooping in play against the fierce blue sky. We stopped and watched for a moment, staring out at the sky full of crows and clouds and blue, in observation of our time in the forest coming to a close.
“Lightning is a metaphor for human emotions such as: Fear, Reverence, Creativity and much more. Witnessing lightning has a tendency to churn up a whole slew of internal reactions. In essence, lightning ignites our deeper selves. These bolts of energy can potentially tap into our most primal, basic emotions.” – SOURCE
“It is a sign of change. All that you have been working for and toward is now coming to fruition. Alternatively Crow is giving you clear messages and guidance as to what your next steps are. Pay attention to your thoughts, and to the omens around you. The messages are clearer now than they have ever been.” – SOURCE
Receiving the gift of natures presence over the last two months, being greeted by the broad community of generous, beautiful people in my life, far and near, refreshed my resolution to do the work I need to do. That I long to do. I kept spinning, knowing what I want but not how to get it. WHERE? How? When? BUT… IF I COULD JUST…. From Montana to the Canyons of Utah to the hills of Santa Cruz and a whole lot of desert in between, I didn’t realize I was still searching. Or perhaps stalling. I didn’t realize I would have been effected so deeply by this round of travels. I mean, and epic year really! These two days, though, in the New Mexican wilderness brought about a sense of completion. That I’m ready for the next steps and although it could be rough, the support and care that’s needed to get it together is right here.