What Do I Have in Common with Indiana Jones?

What do I have in common with Indiana Jones? Is it …

  • Shocking good looks? I wish.
  • Household name? Not … yet.
  • Irrational fear of snakes? Bingo.

Today when I was out hiking, I encountered one of these little guys:

Eastern Ribbon Snake
Eastern Ribbon Snake


Notice the picture is from Wikipedia. I didn’t take it. I was too busy FREAKING THE HECK OUT about the proximity of a snake to my open-toed sandals and ground-skimming pant cuffs. A SNAKE. Near my SKIN. Here’s how it went down.

(By the way, I should add that I’m writing this whole entry in HTML instead of WYSIWYG so I don’t have to look at that picture the whole time. Yes. I really am that bad.)

Last night was a sleepless night including not only a mental litany of all my failures but also a cat waking me up at 5:00 a.m. to bear witness to her vomiting on the bedspread. It was rough, man. So today I decided what I needed, besides a load of laundry, was a good hike outside in the late-autumn sun, among trees, alone, to clear my thoughts, meditate on the positive, and pray.

And oh, I did. The whole time I was out, I was thinking how good it was to be alone and strong, how striking the afternoon sunlight is, and how I wasn’t going to blog about today’s adventure so why take pictures. (Therefore no pictures today. Sorry not sorry.)

I climbed a steep ridge for a glorious view. I hiked to a quarry to see a cliff of limestone. I meandered along a creek that said, “Gurgle gurgle,” almost as prettily as my 11-month-old nephew.

All the while, the sound of my trekking pole rustled the leaves with each step. Rustle, step, step, rustle, step, step, rustle …

And then there was rustling when I wasn’t moving.

A lot of rustling.

I look down at my feet and there it is, and I can’t tell you what was happening. Maybe I had stabbed it with my pole, maybe I had almost stepped on it, maybe none of that had happened. I can’t tell you because I blanked in total fear, shaking my trekking pole like a lunatic and shrieking, “SNAKE! SNAAAAKKKKKE!!!” before running, knees to my chest, a few hundred yards to get away.

When I finally stopped, I looked around to see that I was alone (good) and talk myself down. It’s a snake. Snakes are good creatures. They’re allowed to be on the trail, too. It’s called nature. When my heart finally extracted itself from my ears and returned to its usual place in my chest, I even realized that it had definitely been more terrified of me than I of it. After all, I’m the one with the yard-long spear that might well have hit it where it lay.

Rational or no, I had to go home after that. And thankfully, no one else was on the trail because my return hike consisted of me saying, “Hey, Snakey, I’m coming, with my stick, and I don’t want to hurt you—” hitting ground ahead of me with trekking pole like a blind person with their cane “—so move off the trail like a good Snakey…”

One thing it did do for me, though, was clear my mind and face a fear. Those rare nights when all we can think of is where we’ve failed ourselves, it’s hard to face the failures because they’re usually in the past. How can we face that demon so we can grow stronger and move on? But my afternoon snake was there for me to face instead of my failures. And after I ran away from it, I had to return over that same section of trail to get back to my car. Maybe next time I see a snake on a hike, I’ll welcome it.

Or maybe it’ll take a few more snake encounters first. But I’m on my way. And today, that’s what really counts.


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