Transformation in the Woods

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.

About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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12 Responses to Transformation in the Woods

  1. Could snakes be your animal spirit guide? Great uplifting blog.

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  2. Oh! What a marvelous post! I am so deeply moved!

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  3. Kudos on your shift to a more grounded, natural, and simple life Annette. It sounds wonderful. I live in a small college town and know I would love living in nature, especially in the mountains of Virginia. Having grown up in Northern Va, the Shenandoah mountains were my first experience with the beauty and peace of nature.

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  4. Reblogged this on Emerald Mountain Sanctuary and commented:

    As part of our Forest Bathing tours, we also work with symbolism.

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  5. Kellie says:

    What a lovely post! The skin looks huge 😮

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  6. That is really a remarkable experience and live teaching lesson, Annette, sounds like a gift offered to you in the right moment. Thank you so much for sharing.

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