Accepting the Snake

If you live in the southeast and spend time outdoors, chances are you’ve run across a black snake. These guys are not poisonous and are known for good things, like keeping away copperheads and mice.

There’s a black snake that lives under our house. He was here before we moved in. One day, years ago, my husband returned from walking the dog and there was the snake, coiled up and napping on the back door step. The snake retreated to his den, which seems to be through a crack in the concrete, under the step, under the house.

People asked, why don’t you kill the snake? Well. Why should I? He hasn’t done anything…yet.

“This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

I don’t mind snakes. I certainly don’t want to come across a venomous one or spend a whole lot of time with a boa constrictor, but they do not send me into waves of fear like certain eight-legged (or six if you’re out west) crawly things. We let the black snake stay. He (or she) was big, probably five feet then, and – let’s be honest – he was there before us.
Then he discovered the chicken coop. For the past few years, he’s been an occasional visitor to the coop. Once a week in summer, maybe less. After September, he seemed to hibernate and when May hit, he’d show up now and then. He’d steal an egg or two…for us, if he kept away the rodents, we were willing to give up an egg from our small flock.

0610171405

He likes to burrow under the woodshavings in the coop and has been locked in the coop overnight. His backside is scarred with marks from pecking beaks. He’d never hurt the hens that we saw, although one night, during a thunderstorm, he gave us all a big scare. There’s a chance, a chance, he was squeezing one of the hens.

So we accept the snake.
This is what led to my acceptance. Sometimes the hens squawk when the snake shows up. Sometimes not. Like this. They’re calm.

wp-image--1393453647

Sometimes its a surprise to open up the coop to collect eggs and there he is. This was one of the surprise times. I went back and got the broom to shoo him out – the usual method. And for the first time, I saw him with the egg already in his mouth. I’d never seen anything like it. I wasn’t a science kid, I’d never seen a snake eating up close.
wp-image-1196317722

It was amazing, to me, to watch him unhinge his jaw and swallow that egg whole. The entire process took about a half hour. I sat about a foot away and recorded him. The egg made its way past his throat, and into his body. I think I even heard a crunch of the crushed eggshell.

After he swallowed the egg, he rested in the coop. Snakes don’t move much after a meal. I even lifted him out with the broom and he just slithered to the porch step to rest some more.
wp-image-1925966061

I was fascinated. But I was also late for graduation (I teach, if you’re wondering). So I lifted him over the fence, where he curled up in the grass and warmed up in the sun.
0620171436a

I can accept this reptile who is doing his thing. He hadn’t hurt the hens and as long as he was limited to a single egg, this could work. I might just have a new pet.

Hen Love, Acceptance, and Stillness

Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside: it is deep within you…In the stillness of your presence…you can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature…this is the realization of oneness. This is love.

~ Eckhart Tolle, Enlightened Relationships in The Power of Now.

These two. They exemplified Stillness. They portrayed Love. It’s so important for us to remember Stillness in times of stress, to remember Stillness when our thoughts run rampant with fear.

0724162235b_wm.jpg

 

The hens had a scare last week. These two black Australorp hens are Mean Girl #1 and Mean Girl #2. They were raised together and when we got them, #1 was much more dominant than #2 (hence, the names). Mean Girl #1 is second in the pecking order, and is temporarily first when the dominant hen goes broody. Mean Girl #2 is one of the last in the pecking order. She’s a little slow, has to be shown to her food, won’t go after food on her own.

So what scared the Mean Girls? A black snake had gotten into their coop at night, after the hens had gone to bed. Just a little background – the black snake, non-poisonous good snake -is a regular summertime visitor. He’s on the hunt for a few free eggs, and, for his work in keeping our house mouse-free, we keep him around. If we see him around the coop, usually in the day time, we sweep him away with a broom and he slithers back to his home under the porch.

Last week, though, I heard the chickens squawking, clucking, making all sorts of noise late at night. I heard them from another room, over the sound of the television. That never happens. Chickens are generally catatonic when they sleep. Which is why if they are free-roaming or don’t have a secure coop, they are easy prey for fox, raccoon, and bear. They’re not going wake up until its too late (analogy for many of us in our life lessons?)

0724162103_wm.jpg

I ran outside (seeing no furry mammal as the problem) and opened the coop to find Mr. Black Snake snuggling awful close with Mean Girl #2 and Brown Chick. It was hen chaos. The rest of the hens literally “flew the coop”** but the two sort of trapped by the snake had some panicked moments. I opened the side panel and, finally, they were able to get out.

Well, Mr. Black Snake was eventually swept out the door and slithered on home. All the hens were spooked and wandered around, refusing to go back in. I left them alone (light on and careful watch out the window) and eventually all but the two Mean Girls went back inside and settled on their roost.

The smaller hen, Mean Girl #2,  was still terrified. She shook. Her tail feathers shook. She burrowed into Mean Girl #1’s side, trying to get under her bigger companion’s wing.** I’ve never been particularly moved by the chickens or been sentimental about them. But these two hens, refusing to leave each others sides was amazing. Mean Girl #1 sat down with her on the edge of the porch. She stayed with her, and let the smaller hen nestle against her. Love. Acceptance. And in the rain, in the darkness, they sat. They stayed together in Stillness.

0724162201_wm.jpg

**Cliches come alive…”flew the coop” and “under [her] wing”…it really does happen.

 

%d bloggers like this: