Jasmine and Rattlesnake
by JoAnne Dodgson
mentor at the Wise Woman University
Jasmine's barking alerted me from across the mesa. Turning back to find her, I quickly scanned the land for the coyotes she was likely talking to and telling me about. No wild dogs in sight. Just Jasmine standing among the junipers and sage, her head raised toward the turquoise blue sky, barking away. I called to let her know her pack-of-two was joined up. Jasmine leaned down toward the desert soils and suddenly lurched back. That's when I saw the coiled serpent body and heard the unmistakable sounds. Jasmine was nose to nose with a rattlesnake.
The picture of what-I-should-do instantly flashed through my mind: heroically fling my body between the snake and my dog. Truth is, I stayed a safe distance away. I wasn't sure at the time what that said about me as a dog mama. Opting for self-preservation? Really wanting to stay unharmed and alive?
No matter what I did, I could not lure Jasmine away. So I stood nearby, curiously watching the unfolding dance. Jasmine stopped barking. Rattlesnake stopped rattling. And Jasmine sat down in the middle of the mesa, unperturbed and at ease, right where there'd just been a highly charged circumstance.
Was she communing with the snake? Was she a snake hunter? A snake charmer? Had Rattlesnake charmed her? Perhaps they were involved in a peace negotiation. Maybe they were sharing what they knew about the mesas, about life, from their particular points of view. There was something going on between the snake and the dog, something beyond what my human eyes could see.
It was quite some time before we finally all journeyed home. Rattlesnake slithered underground. Jasmine pranced along the dirt path on all fours. I walked in my hiking shoes carefully watching each step, extra-attentive to who might be crawling around.
The rattling of the rattlesnake has stayed with me for days. The sound is compelling - beautiful and delicate and uncompromising all at once. The snake's rhythmic rattling carries a clear, unwavering message: “I'm here! This is my body! This is my space on the land!”
The rattling is a claiming, a calling for mutual awareness, an embodied request to honor the snake's birthright to be who and where she is at that particular moment in time.It's all there in the vibration. Self-protection. Preserving aliveness. The cherishing of life.
That seems the common ground on which we all stood that day out on the mesas – rattlesnake, human and dog. Each of us, loving life. Protecting aliveness in the organic ways of our unique bodies, spirits and minds. Negotiating in diverse languages our presence on the land. Creating and claiming safe and sacred space.
It's not just the rattling that has stayed with me for awhile. So too has the weaving of our co-existence, the resounding peace and the quiet. Because rattlesnakes don't rattle all the time. Most of their days are spent purposefully engaged in the other intriguing aspects of their lives. Rattling is episodic, a specifically chosen response to a potential life-and-death circumstance.
What ingenious communication - the motion, sounds and vibration broadcast a message while Snake gathers up information to readily discern if further measures for self-protection are required. Once the threat has diminished, once mutual understandings of presence and space have been clarified, the rattling doesn't keep going on and on. The snake and everybody involved freely move along their way, all lives touched by the unexpected crossing of their paths.
The artful ways of the rattlesnake have something to teach us. Because we two-leggeds have gotten trapped inside our relentless fight-or-flight mode. It's like we're rattling away all the time. Worry Worry Worry. Fear Fear Fear. Anger Anger Anger. Stress Stress Stress. Fight Fight Fight.
These patterns are deafening and disharmonious. Drowning out the joy of our own aliveness. Burying the passionate cherishing of every moment of life.
So we've just got to do a little digging and search around inside.
To find again our joy, our wild instinctive passions, that boundless creative momentum hidden away inside.
And amplify the feelings until we're filled to overflowing.
Claiming our birthright to be who we really are, right where we are, here and now.
Honoring the organic rhythms and ways of every body, spirit and mind.
Creating and sharing sacred space on the earth.
Living in love with Life.
It's all there in our vibration, naturally.