Its a gorgeous day today, with birds of all sizes singing in the pinon trees. While its getting warmer here on the mesa, elk and deer are coming down from the mountains where the deep snow makes food scarce and the bobcats are following them, even to a city street in Santa Fe. Truly! What a combination of emotions that news aroused in people.
There is the thrill of picturing that bobcat roaming the courtyard walls and alleyways of a Santa Fe neighborhood along with the awe (which the dictionary says is respect and wonder mixed with fear) and the caution that is needed when a predator is so close to home. That particular bobcat was tracked and transported to the Carson National Forest, much to the relief of people with cats, dogs and small children.
In my neighbor on the mesa, where a bobcat did eat several chickens, the end was quite different. It was pursued by a local dogpack, or coyotes and died when it chose an electric pole as its way to safety.
Of course wild life is not inherently dangerous. The pathways of wild and the domestic intersect all the time. Its just that certain seasons make it all more visible. The Tarantulas that spend the winter in their chosen spots on my land will begin to appear soon, walking slowly across the mesa, large enough to make dogs bark, slow enough not to be too scary.
I saw a shiny black widow in the wellhouse last week so I made enough noise to get her to retreat back into her small cave as i descended to check on the pump. But i know she's ready to lay many eggs. And when i walk on the mesa these days I do recall that I have seen a rattlesnake sunning herself at a certain spot on the trail I walk with my dog. Nothing to be frightened of, but plenty to be aware of...
All kinds of wildness is emerging, becoming more visible and reminding me of its existence. And then, the other night, this dream...
I dreamt that a fer-de-lance, the most dangerous and territorial snake in Belize, had somehow entered my home. I opened a door and used sweeping motions of a kitchen broom to "shoo" it out the door. Then I closed the door firmly behind it. It did not give up so easily and when it tried to get into the house again my efforts to stop it with the broom only seemed to enrage it.
I cannot recall what made it finally leave the doorway to my home. But I do recall that i saw it outside. Night had fallen. Our struggle had consumed the daylight hours and outside in the dark of the night, I could see that the snake had glowing designs on its back and seemed mysterious and beautiful.
Since that dream I've been remembering what Basilo, a Mayan man in Southern Belize, taught me about how he deals with this snake. I'm also wondering why the snake has appeared now in my dreamworld and what the dream might be telling me i need to be tending in my waking world.
“We have to walk farther and farther to find these plants,” Basilio told me, “So I hope to plant them here and start reseeding this area around the village.” His other activities included encouraging traditional music and dance celebrations and working to maintain traditional communal ownership of the land rather than see it privatized and developed by outside interests.
During the time of my visit Basilio was walking to his milpa early every morning. To get there he traveled through the rainforest - home to the fer-de-lance. I'd read that the fer de lance is a very poisonous snake. And prone to attacking people. So I asked Basilio what happens when one encounters a fer-de-lance in the rainforest during such an early morning walk to the milpa.
Basilio’s answer was direct, surprising and instructive. “Well,” he said, “this is the most bad tempered snake in the forest. Everyone knows that. And they like to lie right across the path. So I tell it, move out of my way or I will chop you in half with my machete”. It is a mix of unshakeable intention and commitment to action that Basilio expresses when he speaks to this dangerous snake because he knows that faltering could be fatal.
I was stunned. “Basilio", I asked, “Couldn’t I just say hello and please don’t hurt me.?” Basilio looked at me with surprise and a bit of dismay. “Rose”, he told me, “You will have big problem.” That evening Basilo asked if I'd like to walk to the milpa with him in the morning. I declined. Today I like to think that I would take that walk.
“You must master the snake,” Basilio told me. “I know Americans do not like the words slave and master, but you must master the snake. Then you can use its powers for healing.”
Over a decade later these words continue to come to mind. On one level there is the absolute necessity to see what is really in front of me…not what I hope is in front of me but what is there...to not turn my face away from the details of a situation or person. Its important not to fool myself, thinking a bad tempered snake will become capable of withholding its conditioning or its poison if I find the right words to say -- In a dangerous situation I need complete commitment to radical and fearless action.
Its easiest for me to see the dream as a reminder that its my own poisons that I must master…anger, envy, hatred, pride and that whole familiar list. If I understand and master these, their poison will be transformed and the energy they hold can serve as medicine. I do believe that is true.
But I just learned something else about Ixchel, whose healing powers include mastering a poisonous snake. According to one narrative she lived with an abusive diety who she was assured would straighten up and treat her right. But he didn't. So Ixchel fled and became a jaguar, and like the jaguar, she was "invisible" when she needed to be.
It's said that Ix-Chel teaches us to acknowledge the negative forces that affect our lives and assert ourselves when faced with violence of any kind. Assert ourselves fully in situations that would diminish our sense of self, erode our understanding of who we truly are. Assert ourselves, stand for ourselves, without hesitation or doubt. And stand for others as well, with the same commitment and steadfastness.
In this season of Easter and Passover, which both tell stories of courageous sacrifice and commited journeys, perhaps the dream is a reminder for me to see the forces at play around me fearlessly and respond with the dedicated action and persistence that is needed...even if that task consumes the day.