I saw the standing deadwood from a distance. It was a giant tree trunk jutting high into the air. Something was dangling from it, swaying lightly in the breeze. Too soft and fabric-like to be peeling bark, I decided.
Walking closer now, my breath caught and I stood frozen in awe the moment I recognized the largest snake skin I had ever seen. Transfixed, I looked up at the thin membrane dangling like an exotic scarf from a height of about 10 feet. My next thought turned to the owner of the skin, probably a black snake that must be living somewhere around the tree roots. I looked around cautiously, not wanting to accidentally step on a monster snake.
At the same time, my mind kept chanting one word over and over: “Transformation, transformation.”
My heart beat a little faster. I knew this was the snake’s message to me. Spring and summer had been full of snake energy – from the rattlesnake vibrating the air alive on our covered porch to the black snake I found entangled in a roll of bird netting in the garden shed. I was able to cut it loose marveling at the strength of the muscular flesh contracting under my hands. And here was the grandfather of all snakes leaving behind his mark, a mark I could no longer ignore and bury in the busy-ness of my life.
Because I was leading a forest bathing group when I came across the skin, I turned my attention back to my group, listened to their tree experiences and led them back out of the woods. A big storm prevented me from heading back there for a few days. When I finally looked for the tree again, the skin was gone! I circled the tree trunk wading through brambly bushes and finally spotted the skin. I pulled it out as gently as I could to prevent the brambles from shredding it. Then I hung it up over a nearby smaller tree so I could photograph it. While suffering from a bit of wear and tear, it was still magnificent!
I remembered that snake symbolizes rebirth, initiation, and wisdom. In Native American mythology, snake is a symbol of transformation and healing. In Eastern lore, a coiled snake at the base of the spine represents kundalini energy which, once activated, opens up new levels of awareness and creativity.
But – what did THIS snake skin mean to me? What kind of transformation was imminent in MY life?
As I sat and contemplated, the snake skin released its short message to me: “Go deep,” I heard, “Go deep – here.”
I had been spreading myself in too many directions, going “wide and far.” I knew intuitively what “going deep” meant: to gather my energies inward and invest them into my life here, on my property in the mountains of Virginia. This is where I can go deep – with native plants, plant medicine, my own re-connection to Earth after decades in the urban rat race, and stewarding the land and the woods.
“Go deep” the snake whispered through its cast-off skin.
In the coming months, I began to shed small and large fragments of my old skin: the majority of political activities that had been depleting my creative and emotional energies; traveling abroad (a yearly luxury) which immediately eliminated my largest carbon footprint source; and de-cluttering spaces in my house selling, giving away, or recycling unneeded items.
Now it was time to travel again, right here in my own backyard and backwoods. I started a small plant sanctuary for endangered wood- land medicinals. I re-committed to book research that would encourage gardeners to plant natives in our area. I am designing workshops and retreats that will help others re-connect to their outer and inner nature.
I feel more anchored and grounded in my new skin and am listening more intently to that inner calling.