One constant has dominated my life here in the northern rivers. Snake. Not surprising really since I was born in the Chinese year of the Snake. Clearly snakes feel quite comfortable inhabiting my private life … I’m a sibling!
There was the time I was sitting up in bed reading one hot night a few years ago and noticed in my peripheral vision something move to my left. A large python was making its way out of the slightly ajar door of the wardrobe less than a metre away. I tracked its slow pace for about an hour, into the toilet, obviously thirsty, then down the corridor into the loungeroom. I opened the glass double doors in an effort to encourage its exit and went back to bed. A few hours later I woke with an acute sensation, reached my hand through the mozzie net and switched on the bedside lamp. It was curled comfortably around the bedhead. All three metres of it. To say the shock was intense is an understatement, but there was also awe.
Shortly after that incident, Raf, my son, lifted himself up into the manhole, armed with a torch. ‘Mum, there’s dozens of snake skins up here’. Sure enough, we were inhabiting their home, not the reverse.
Then there was the python at around the same time who found my sock and undie shelf a comfortable place to hibernate for weeks. So enamoured was I with its choice of ‘home’ I moved most of my smalls to another shelf, lined newspaper around it and even provided a bowl of water. Bad behaviour a little while later demanded I take evasive action. I didn’t know at the time what exactly I was looking at. Tiny white eggs in a slimy clear liquid. My first thought was vomit. My second, aborted snake eggs. My third, poo. I still don’t know what it was, but it was messy.
A couple of weeks ago I witnessed two pythons mating on the solar panels on my roof. It was a vigorous and sexy action, a dance of love. They could have been fighting, but methinks they were being amorous. Damned camera had a flat battery.
This morning I sat down at the sewing machine by the window to make amends and that sensation of something going on was around again. I looked up to see a snake vertically descending from the gutter toward the window sill, inches from my face. She’s beautiful. This is her in the photo.
There’s no-one more aware of the symbolic references attributed to the serpent than me. It portends transformation, a change of way, a shedding of the skin of the old for the skin of the new. Over the years I’ve felt equal measures of humility and frustration. A great honour is bestowed on me by its presence, a great responsibility to heed its message, a great uncertainty as to what it is I am meant to see or hear. Who am I to become?
Rainer Maria Rilke, the great 20th century German poet’s words act as a constant reminder … ‘you, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing'