A Teaching Moment

Yesterday I took a bike ride. I rode one of my favorite routes to Cascade Lake. I like to go to this State Park Day Use area, sit on the rocks and watch the activities on the lake. I started out in the partial sun and arrived back at my current home in smoke-filled skies. What a change a few hours can make.

Something I will never do.

As I was riding on the paved trails I encountered a small garter snake. It was trying to cross the path as I was biking by. If you have read my previous post Snakes! you know that I am not fond of snakes. In fact, I am a bit afraid of them. They always surprise me and cause my heart to race.

Here is this poor snake, it sees my bike and I see the snake. I immediately think “Oh my God, I am going to run over this snake and it is going to get stuck in my spokes and be tossed on me. I freaked. The snake freaked. It started to squiggle back and forth rapidly on the trail, not knowing what direction to head to avoid that big object coming at it. Know that this all happened in a few moments of time.

After this event I began to think of this poor snake, rapidly moving back and forth on the trail trying to escape my bike and find safety. It finally succeeded and moved off the trail into the undergrowth. I was thankful and I imagine it was thankful too.

How many times have I done this in my life when confronted with the unknown and challenges and stressful moments? Do I move rapidly in many directions before I finally recognize the obstacle and figure a way to overcome the situation I am in? How long do I move back and forth and go through the darkness of indecision before I finally find my way out of my predicament? Is it a split second, days weeks, or years?

I believe that as humans we all do this at times in our lives. When confronted with the unknown or stress or the need to make a decision, we have to move back and forth and around, trying to figure out the best approach to find the most correct result. Sometimes the best thing we can do is move back to where we previously were. Sometimes we force ourselves forward to achieve that next goal or slip through the obstacle that confronts us. Sometimes we slither back and forth rapidly on the trail.

Avoiding decisions or opportunities is not possible, something will move us forward. We have to move in one direction or another. If one approach doesn’t work then it is important to look at other possibilities. Just like that little, harmless snake, we try out different things until the right way presents itself.

Who knew that this moment in time would give me reflection on a much larger and broader subject. I have thought about this snake a lot since I saw it yesterday. Symbols are important to me. Sometimes one word or act allows me to see the much larger picture or the smaller details. Maybe this garter snake was simply feeling everything out in a nanosecond and unconsciously chose the quickest way out. For me, it represented a bit more than the quick way out. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on this topic.

Cascade Lake

Today I am thankful for all living things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snakes!!!

I am not fond of snakes. They are startling and sneaky even if they don’t mean to be. They startle and surprise me and I am not fond of them.

When I was young my mother and father built our family home on a piece of farmland in Delaware (the second smallest state in the nation). Since there were three children we were responsible for “doing the dishes”. In case you don’t know what that is, it means that after dinner we were responsible for washing, drying, and putting away the dinner dishes.

One spring evening my sisters and I were about to embark on our dishwashing duties. My mother noticed I did not have shoes on and told me to go and put a pair on before I helped with the after-dinner task. Merrily I meandered into my bedroom, not watching where I was going, I stepped on something slimy and slithery and it dashed into my closet. I screamed, ran into the kitchen yelling about the snake. All three girls ran out of the house and ran circles around my parents in the garden, yelling about the snake. We wouldn’t return to the house until my father captured the poor wee garden snake and killed it.

I have no doubt that my fear of snakes began at that moment. I have been known to go out of my way to move around a snake. It is not unusual for me to turn around on a hike when I encounter a slithering thing on the trail, especially one with rattles. I am wary of snakes. I will never put a snake of any sort on my shoulders. I will never hold one, although I have touched a few.

One time I was hiking in the Tetons with a good friend, Diane. We hiked the Cascade Trail into the heart of the Mountains, our destination a lake. We were sitting on a log, dangling our feet in the lake when I looked down and there were these squiggly things all around our legs. Watersnake hatchlings!! Oh my!! My breath quickened. I told Diane my fear of snakes, so we moved to the rocky shore, only to discover more small slithery things among the rocks. I finally told Diane I had to go. So we hiked out. After were safely back at the campsite my hiking companion told me that she had seen more of those little things on the hike out. Remembering that still can cause a catch in my breath.

I have had other encounters with snakes since then and I admit to being a bit better with the confrontation of those sneaky reptiles. I have encouraged myself to learn about them. l have researched them and read about them. I know all the good they can do. They are an important part of all ecosystems. With the San Diego Zoo close to my home for many years, I would often go to visit. I always made sure to go to the Reptile House. I figure that it would help me get over my fear. I figure they were safe behind glass. Then Harry Potter came into the picture and I have to admit, I hope the glass holds when I go into the “Snake” House.

 

While in South Africa Phyllis and I got to see some really colorful snakes at one of our stops early on the trip. They are pretty and colorful. Even there I had to tell Phyllis after a short time that I needed to leave. One of them coiled and jumped towards the glass and that was it. I had enough. Ah, snakes!

Why am I telling you this? I was kayaking on Cascade Lake and the North Fork of the Payette River earlier this week. I was paddling north enjoying the birds and the dragonflies and all the nature around me. Suddenly I saw a small head moving across the water. Quickly I realized it was a small (very small snake). I turned around and began to paddle towards it. I wanted to look at it. As I turned to do so, it turned right towards my boat. Instantly fear took over and I went into flight or fight mode. My heart rate picked up. I was sure that the snake was going to swim to my boat and get in. I panicked and turned that kayak around and paddled as hard as I could to get away from it. It felt like I paddled hard for five minutes or more. However, I think I paddled hard for maybe a minute at most. That little tiny snake was not going to get me. Why did it have to turn and swim toward my boat? Once I was sure that the little wiggly thing was not behind me I slowed down and continued to enjoy my morning. I kept an eye out for all things squiggly for the rest of the kayak.

Fear of snakes, Fear of spiders, Fear of water, whatever the fear, it is not rational. These are phobias and most of us live with one or more of them. I know my fear of snakes is not rational. I know I can control the situation. I have proven that to myself in the past. On the river, I did not prove myself to be brave and fearless. That little snake made me realize I still have more work to do.

What are you afraid of?

 

It’s All About Water

Payette River

I am about water. We are all about water. We are made of water. Without water we and this planet would not exist as we know it today.

I love bodies of water great and small. This spring is about water in the west. There has been an abundant supply of snow this past winter and spring runoff is happening, in the lakes, rivers and streams. I have heard several comments from the locals here in Idaho regarding the amount of water in the rivers this spring. “I have never seen the Payette River this high.” “There is usually a beach here.” “Wow!”

Since Jim’s death the ocean has been my friend. I sent his ashes into the Pacific and I have found some comfort in being close to the ocean since then. Leaving the ocean behind was hard for me and I was wondering how much I would miss it. When I discovered these wild flowing bodies of water, I find, I have not missed the ocean one bit.

Pacific Ocean in all it’s Glory

I love water. I love it when it is quiet and meandering. I am attracted to weather at it’s worst. I think many of us are. There is something about nature in all it’s fury that beckons me to go outside, climb the mountain, stand on the sand and witness the un-tameness of it all. Big waves? You bet. Wild surf and bad storms? Yep. I once had to crawl under a boulder on a mountain peak while lightening struck and hail was coming down, fast and furious (it was a surprise storm). At these moments, when nature is in it’s full fury I am reminded that I am a speck in this universe. It is a good reminder and humbling.

Spring is a juicy time of the year. Water abounds and is usually at it’s most prevalent. There is still snow on the mountains, more water is still to come. This year I am going rafting for six days on the Flathead River in Montana. Ah, more water. I love to put my feet in water and if it is warm enough I love swimming in it. In San Diego, the summer is boogie-boarding season. There is a quiet joy in kayaking or paddle-boarding a peaceful lake. It is fun to ¬†meander the shore-lines and see what I can see. There is nothing better than the sound of a loon on a quiet lake.

Fields near Donnelly

Since I have arrived in Donnelly, Idaho, I have been surrounded by large bodies of water, Cascade Lake and Payette Lake. As a nature photographer I really enjoy all this water. It attracts birds and all sorts of wildlife. If I want a chance to photograph, all I have to do is put on some mosquito repellant and sit by a lake or stream and wait. Right now the open fields have quite a bit of water in them. I can stop almost anywhere and wait. If I am quiet and patient enough the animals and birds will come. My favorites this spring are grebes and sandhill cranes. They are my current favorites until something else attracts my attention.

Greebe

Greater Sandhill Crane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cascade Lake

Ponderosa State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water attracts all of nature, People, animals, birds, bugs-the list could go on. Water is a part of my life and I am happy to have it there. I like to camp next to it. Fishing is fun. There are times that I enjoy renting a hotel room right on the beach and sit and contemplate life, as the waves gently or not so gently crash onto the sand. When evening falls and a lake is still, the sunset is awe inspiring. It quiets my spirit before sleep.

Today and every day I celebrate water in all of it’s wondrous forms.