Playing With Snakes

animal spirit family story

By the time I caught up with True, she was carefully examining a tan, three foot long Bull Snake stretched elegantly across the front path. She, very delicately and with great intent, poked it with her tiny finger. Girl pokes snake, snake takes that poke in, considers it … and just moves on. What an omen/life meme/True-ism: toddler meets snake and things go pretty well.

She has that way with the world – entering into another animals space without disrupting it too much, excitedly taking it all in, then attempting communication (or just hugging). Usually things go … pretty well. Tadg is very different, much more passionate. If he can play or wrestle with an animal – fine, otherwise he’s off!!! That is unless the animal is a cat, then there’s a love-fest.

The world is already magical to both of our kids, we don’t need to construct anything to make that happen, just leave room for it. The natural world is really what makes the magic of life so palpable to them. The unexpected, uneven events of the world are a song to them. Perhaps today a bigger snake will happen her way, maybe a unicorn!

Of course its easier to experience magic when you’re surrounded by nature. We evolved as part of the habitat that is the world. Our magical awareness is also an understanding of how everything works together and is part of a greater whole. We know how to weave ourselves into the fabric of the world, if we didn’t our ancestors would have perished long ago. Todays magical thinking was their means of survival.

Now, as then, we develop within the presence of other souls, our parents, relatives, and friends. There’s nothing quite like maturing within the soul of a forest, or the soul of an ocean, places where other players might show up. These incredible containers for our development include agents of change, instructors that might show up to offer many different teachings. Today a bull snake, tomorrow…

Our dog Bella can sometimes work as an intermediary to that world, cueing me in on events unfolding just beyond my awareness. When the presence of the forest changes for a special reason, she’s almost always aware of whats going on well before I am. She stands between the worlds for me.

“Papa’s got to listen to everything for a minute…” I told her later that day as she pushed her snout into my face. She slowly backed off a bit as I closed my eyes and reached to the land around, above and below me. There is a particular ache that can only be soothed by doing this, allowing myself to open to whats there.

The spirits have been encouraging me to develop a practice of deep listening to the world for some time. So often I when I asked what the next step was on my path, they only answered back “listen.” Like any really good practice it started as something I needed to remember to do, but it has become a part of me, something I need to do just to be me.

There have been moments, in this practice of listening, where I can feel that my inner state, and what I feel in the world are the same thing. The stuff of me and the stuff of the world are tangibly one. Thats how I remember I’m part of the magic as well, that everything I am is born out of the world, any separation is just a habit of my Western mind.

Of course True and Tadg are at play there, its their childhood womb. Their play is their practice. The wonderful thing I’ve discovered through listening is that the world knows when you’re listening to it, playing with it, and it responds. You only need to open up a little, allow a small crack, and the light will burst in. Snakes show up for play.

True has taken to running after our turkeys, flapping her arms and laughing hysterically. At first I thought she was just trying to chase them, then I realized she was pretending to be one. A shapeshifter in the making, she was turning into a turkey and enjoying every moment of it.

I wish I could know that she’d never have to shut out the magical world, I don’t think any of us should have to. We’ll see. For now I know snakes, turkeys and Bella will all keep her comfortably nested in a world where animal visitors are more common, and more communicative than the UPS delivery guy or the ice cream truck.

I remember one of my most enchanting snake meetings, it almost didn’t go well for me. Walking down a path by the Elkhorn slough, talking to Terry I stepped too close to a snake about the same size True met. She reared up and struck my ankle with her fangs, making a loud “SNAP” as she did. My thick work pants and boots protected me but I must have jumped a foot in the air. She looked at me, paused for a moment and with an air of regal entitlement proudly slithered across the path and away into the grass.

Some people say that when St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, he was really driving out the pagans. Some of those people were known as snake people, healers, shapeshifters, those who could shed their skins and be made anew. These meetings we keep having with snakes are not chance. They are all important gestures. May the snakes bless your path soon, if they haven’t already.

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