The Snake’s Message: Time to Shed Your Skin

The sun had cast a glowing veil across pine boughs and river rocks, and the day was calling me to wake up. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, grabbed a sweatshirt, and headed outside.

“Where are you going?” my sister called after me.

“To say good morning to the river!” I called back over my shoulder, already making strides across the grass to the river path.

Last week, my family and I stayed in a cabin along the South Umpqua River in Southern Oregon.

I was cheerfully greeted by a bubbling, rolling stream of silver-blue water, careening over rocks, tickling grasses along the bank, and exuding the freshest smelling air that made me want to breathe it in deep. I spied the perfect sitting rock, where a natural smooth bowl was beckoning, and settled into a comfy perch, facing upstream, so I could watch the water dance. Closing my eyes, I felt the sunlight stream across my skin and warm me. When I opened my eyes again, hundreds of tiny winged creatures were floating above the water, catching the rays on their wings like glimmering jewels. At first, I imagined they were fairies, but on second thought, they were probably just crane flies or some related species. Nonetheless, the scene was breathtaking.

I reached up and stretched my arms, feeling quite content. And as I stretched, I happened to glance over my right shoulder, and spotted a long snakeskin arched around a small rock under the lip of a large boulder. I went to investigate, and sure enough, withdrew a beautiful black and gray snakeskin, almost completely intact.

Whenever I come across an animal or insect, whether in real life or in a dream, I trust it brings with it some sort of message or significance. The snakeskin appeared across my path at the perfect time, reminding me that old thought patterns, fears, and unresolved hurts from the past must be shed in order to make room for new life. I had already begun this process, as you may have read the poem I posted a few weeks ago about releasing memories. Seeing the snakeskin confirmed I am on the right path.

Oftentimes we desire new opportunities and experiences, yet they remain out of reach until we do the work of shedding our old skin of beliefs that no longer serve our dreams and highest good. As the snake reminds us, in order for transformation to take place, we have to release the past and be willing to enter the unknown with fresh skin. This undoubtedly requires us to be vulnerable. And although there is great power in vulnerability, it isn’t always the most comfortable feeling.

Fellow blogger Kelly C. Wells writes:

“‘You’ve heard the phrase ‘feeling comfortable in your own skin.’ Never is this more difficult when you are in a life transition and learning to take on a new identity. However, it’s important to know that being uncomfortable is not a sign that you are lost, powerless, or disconnected.

The best example of this in the natural world is when a snake sheds its skin. During the shedding process, the snake is visibly uncomfortable and unproductive. It doesn’t eat; it is irritated and sluggish, devoting all of its energy to this one task of ridding the old to make room for the new.

Why is the snake shedding? To grow into a larger, more capable and more evolved body and existence. While snakes do this physically, we as human beings metaphorically shed our own skin when it is time to grow personally, professionally, or spiritually.”

At the end of the week, before it was time to return home to Portland, I went back to the river and returned the snakeskin to the place where I originally found it, offering my thanks for its vital message. Feeling both grateful and tickled by the gift offered that first morning along on the river, I am more certain than ever that wisdom is all around us and an ever-present resource we can be nourished by, if we just open our hearts and minds to receive it.

What beautiful things will enter your world once you shed your old skin and make space for new experiences?

South Umpqua River, Oregon

South Umpqua River, Oregon

The view from the cabin's front porch.

The view from the cabin’s front porch.

The 27th Love Letter

I was recently asked by a stranger if I would write my 27th* Love Letter to him.

He wrote that he is deflated, and I believed him, because, who hasn’t felt that way at times? I know I have.

He wrote that he is ready to stop missing out on things, and thus, he’s starting fresh. And I understood completely.

With a move across the country pending, I pictured him standing at the edge of the canyon that we all stand at when we’re about to make a big change in our lives. It can be scary. It will be uncertain. It takes courage.

And because I couldn’t think of a single reason not to write this stranger a love letter, I closed my eyes and began typing.

So here is my 27th Love Letter, and it’s as much for you and me, as it is for him.

Dear Stranger,

When the slope is steep and the butterflies all seem to be flying away when you wish they’d stay, just remember that the view from the top will be a fresh and beautiful beginning; a new start. A door is waiting and your knocking is the call; don’t stop just before the lover opens the door! Stay awhile; press your ear against the wooden grain, run your fingers across the handle, and smile, because this mystery of unlocking life and love is the gift of the wind in your lungs and the dreams in your mind. It is all working out perfectly, believe it or not.

Let the soft parts of your heart be seen. Too often we wear our armor and yet, we hope our shoulders will be soft and glowing and nurturing enough for the butterfly to pause and rest awhile. Vulnerability, as unpleasant the sound of it, is the trail, the door, and the knocking. It is also the mountain. If your words are the expression of your truth, then your hands are the doing of your love. With these two together, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your happiest life. It all comes down to trust.

So hear this dear stranger: trust that the view from the top will be greater than anything you can picture now, because it’s the journey that changes your eyes. The alchemy of the journey is absolutely fool-proof. Follow it, breathe it, believe in it. And by it, I mean YOU. Trust your heart.

Love,

A Friend You Haven’t Met Yet

Heart

Please note: several lines in my letter were inspired by the Rumi poem, “The Sunrise Ruby”.

Something Lost, Something Gained

I’ve lost all sorts of things over the years, from coats, to jewelry, to money, to photographs.

Once on my 23rd birthday, I stepped out of the car and instinctively reached for my favorite necklace around my neck — a silver spiral pendant — and it was gone! A small pang of fear trembled through me, like a butterfly moving in slow-motion, and for a split-second, I stood frozen with two feet in thick mud, resisting what was.

It wasn’t but a matter of minutes until I sighed, shrugged my shoulders, and stepped over the wet gutter toward the cafe entrance. With an exhale, I felt the butterfly drift out behind me, and I let it go.

After all, it was just a physical object, right? Hadn’t the feelings of comfort from it already been had? Was it possible that I could simply remember the necklace my best friend gifted me and feel the same swell of appreciation grow inside, even without the actual touch of its cool metal against my chest?

Yes, an intuitive voice whispered.

Still, some days, I think we simply can’t help but become attached to things – pretty things, ugly things, mysterious things, shiny things. We’re like glue, snatching up dust from mid-air, mistaking objects for comfort, until we grow thick layers of gray fuzz, becoming numb behind an armor of our possessions.

But what of those days when we are able to remain minimalist in our attachments, only holding on to what truly matters and letting go of the rest?

I’ve noticed that when sentimental things get misplaced or vanish, there’s something primal, and even healing, in letting the emptiness linger. It’s then, when I can reach down and touch the bottom of my bowl, that I realize how truly vast and deep it is, and how great my capacity for loving is. That’s when I rediscover what I really hold dear.

Perhaps, in the absence of stuff, we gain the space for more of what we truly desire, such as love and connection and meaningful experiences.

And so I pose this question to you: What have you lost recently? And what, in its place, have you gained?

Photo by Marek Petraszek

Photo by Marek Petraszek