Earlier today I was mowing and weeding the yard. While doing so I came across a three to four-foot King Snake hanging out in the grass. I didn’t want to hurt it so I nudged it with the wheel of my push mower and it didn’t move. I bumped it again and the snake curled up into a ball. I was hoping the third time was the charm and tried to get it moving but it wasn’t going anywhere. I then went and grabbed a wooden stake, found the snake still rolled up and not willing to budge. As a last result, I pushed the stake through the center of the ball, picked it up and placed it in another part of the yard where it would be safe. “Sheesh!” I thought to myself. It just had to be difficult.
After getting back to my mowing I thought about the defensive behavior of the snake. It wasn’t helpful for it or me. I reflected on my defensive behaviors and unhelpful coping skills. As someone who deals with mental illness, I know first hand what a sense of being in danger, uncertain, threatened can do. It can cause me to make a bad decision, seize up, pull myself into an emotional ball and try to keep the danger out. Most times it doesn’t work but, like the snake, its instinct.
I know if I would’ve been able to communicate with the reptile I would’ve explained it needed to move for its own safety. If it was left alone eventually the snake would relax and be able to go on its way. When people fight, flight or freeze when we try to help our intention doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding and adapting our help to meet the needs of the other.
In our front yard is a ditch lined with rocks that funnel an underground water spring along the border of our property. Earlier today I was weed whacking in this area when I noticed movement in the tall grass. Immediately I realized it was a snake about three feet long and that the weed eater had tagged it, fortunately, before it tagged me. I asked my wife to bring me a rake and I used it to pick up the reptile to try to see the damage which had been done. I only nicked it and the snake soon began to let me know it wasn’t happy with me by showing it’s fangs, hissing and trying to get away.
Snakes aren’t bad. Even poisonous ones don’t know their harmful or deadly. My wife told me to kill it. Even a truck load of kids picking up trash on the side of the road yelled at me to end it’s life. I decided, however, to take it across the road and let it go.
My wife shook her head and said; “Must be the monk in you.” I smiled and replied; “Maybe, I just believe when we harm or kill another living thing we make ourselves a little less human.”