Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I’m going through
~David Bowie, Changes
During the pandemic, David started mowing a walking path for me through the field on our property. Last week I was hiking when I almost stepped on a bright green snake sunning itself, draped across the narrow mowed path. Now, these so-called rough green snakes (opheodrys aestivus) are as common as field mice in my neck of the woods. Though he startled me, I was pretty sure he wasn’t poisonous.
He lifted his neck up and stared right at me. I remembered that most venomous snakes have thin, vertical pupils like a cat. Most harmless snakes have a rounder pupil. But this guy seemed to be missing pupils. His eyes were a cloudy blue, like cataracts.
“Hey little guy. Are you ok?” I asked aloud. He shook his head in answer.
Now, look. I know he was probably waving his head back and forth to smell me, but it looked for all the world like he answered my question. No, he was not ok. Maybe I was personifying the situation, but he seemed a little grumpy about being disturbed.
“Would you like me to leave you to it?” He flicked his tail, which I interrupted as, “Yes, please.” I reversed directions and headed back the way I came, leaving the snake to his face his own demons.
When I got home, I Googled “green snake milky eyes” and learned that the snake was not going blind but was instead in the process of ecdysis, or skin shedding, which occurs when a snake has grown too large for its current skin. According to the online snake experts, ecdysis isn’t painful, but it is itchy and uncomfortable and leaves the snake feeling vulnerable and irritable until it is completed.
Change is hard. I feel you little guy.
Humans are constantly shedding their skin too, more than 10 pounds per year. That means I have already sloughed over 50 pounds of skin in my lifetime. We are constantly growing and changing, releasing our old selves and shaping into a new phase of being. We too might feel vulnerable and irritable in transition. But it’s worse to remain in an itchy, too-tight existence.
Everywhere we look right now, we see change. The birds overhead migrate to warmer climes. The trees outside our window release their leaves. The days grow shorter, the nights chillier. The white field daisies are slowly replaced by goldenrod and purple ironweed. We grow older, and hopefully wiser.
Change is inevitable, but suffering is optional. I learned that it would take my little friend a few days to fully transform. While he’s transitioning, he’ll rest a lot. He will probably feel unguarded, a little grouchy. But he will let nature do its thing and become who he is supposed to be. And then he will get on with the business of living.
May we all weather the storms of change with as much grace and acceptance.