Saturday 24 February 2018

Snakes and Fear, a True Story

You are the guardian of a treasure,

Oh, just like a sleeping serpent

And you shall see, I shall make you

Spin around like that sleepy snake.

Listen to me.

 Jalaluddin  Rumi 

India's Snake Woman,  the Nagini Druvinka Puri

Why do snakes inspire in us, two-legged creatures, a sense of wonder and fear?

Surely this has been so since earliest times? Their link with the primordial wisdom state and their connection to a mysterious realm not well understood by us, warm-blooded beings, does nothing to diminish our sense of their strangeness.

In New Zealand where I spent the earliest years of my life, there is nothing more poisonous afoot that a slimy little bug called, by the Maori, a Weta. Snakes in the land of the 'long white cloud,' are creatures that one only hears about. They are somewhere else; from far and distant lands. They could have been from Mars, for all I knew or could really envision in the early, formative years of my life.

Then, when I was sixteen years old, I moved to Australia and in a period of a few short months found myself in the wild northern territories. The lands of numerous peculiar, primordial, creeping and crawling creatures. Crocodiles, lizards and spiders of all shapes and varieties and of course numerous breeds and brands of snakes.

However, it was not until I moved to a patch of tropical forest near the small town of Kuranda in Northern Queensland, that I had my first close encounters with many varieties of these creatures.

I had moved to the forest in order to 'meditate,' but the good Lord had other plans for me. On the very first day in that new world, I had two very close encounters with a tree snake. Certainly, this breed is not usually poisonous, so as far as a gentle introduction goes, I suppose this was it. I quickly discovered that there were numerous and far more dangerous snakes also living in close proximity.

The tree snake and I, however, shared my forest hut for some six months or more. We respected each other's boundaries after the first two startling encounters and soon settled into cautious co-habitation. The snake lived in the loft of my forest abode where it had found access via some gap or other near the roof. I felt that this resident was infinitely preferable to a Boer constrictor, the likes of which very much favor such places.

I learned many, many things in this new environment that I could never have gleaned from any book or school. In fact, in these few short months, a whole paradigm change took place within my mind, one that was, very effectively, to shape and prepare me for future adventures which were not very long in coming.

I went into this environment at the age of eighteen. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, had never lived alone in my life and was as naive and innocent to the wonders of forest life as a newborn babe.

One, among many adventures that took place during those months, recently made an appearance in my little store of memories. It virtually bowled me over when the memory of it suddenly resurfaced while speaking with a friend on some related matter.

Until that moment I had quite forgotten about it altogether.

I would like to share it with you as it was one of those formative experiences, the likes of which we all encounter under different guises at one time or another in our lives. Very often we are shocked to the core of our being, but then somehow magically, we forget all about it within quite a short period of time. This was what happened to me.

I am sure that my body and psyche have retained and to this day continue to retain some imprint of the psychic impact of this experience, hence this post. Let me endeavor to unravel it with you, it may stir in you some long-forgotten memory of your own.

While living in the forest in Kuranda I used to come and go from my hut to the village on a small road bike. At that time I was staying some distance from the town and the only access to it was via a gravel road which forded a small river and was soon after followed by a very steep dirt track.

I would make the journey into the town probably about once a week or more frequently if the need arose. One time I remember coming back from one of these excursions and noticing a small creek trickling down amid the dense foliage on the side of the road. It had been my experience in the recent past, when with friends, that at the source of these little creeks one could often find beautiful waterfalls and cool blue ponds.

We had made several such explorations in this area and they had all been well worth the effort. For some reason, that day, I was very much pulled to explore this particular creek even though I was alone.

My curiosity was piqued and I was feeling particularly buoyant and adventurous that morning. I parked my motorbike on the side of the road and took off up the side of the rivulet. It was a gorgeous morning and sunlight shone through the forest leaves in dappled strands. The coolness and the luxurious greenness of this landscape lured me like a promise and taking no heed of anything else I dove into it bounding from one rock to another as I made my way up the stream.

In this mood of great exuberance, I continued to climb on and on always hopeful that the expected waterfall and icy pool would soon appear. Probably about an hour into my climb I found myself among a sea of boulders and the stream had disappeared beneath.

All along the route, I had begun to discard various pieces of my clothing. It was getting hotter and hotter and I did not for one moment even consider that I would ever meet anyone in such a place. I continued for a while longer until it became clear that the stream was not issuing from any nearby waterfall but rather perhaps some hidden spring which was well beneath the boulders over which I was climbing.

Taking a moment to catch my breath I suddenly noticed a movement in the corner of my eye. I looked towards it and saw a very large brown snake glide soundlessly beneath the large rock on which I was standing. I froze with fear.
An instant terror just rose in my belly and I suddenly felt paralyzed.

By that time I had, of course, encountered many snakes in and around where I was living. However, what I discovered that morning in this completely isolated place was that I had climbed into an area that was literally crawling with these creatures. I became aware that I was being watched and not by human eyes. There were snakes basking on the rocks to my left and to my right, above where I was standing and beneath the rocks I was standing on. Finding myself in their midst suddenly left me feeling incredibly alone and vulnerable. I became painfully aware of my nakedness as though someone had just thrown icy water all over me.

Somehow the myriad eyes which were watching me were unspeakably strange, alien and frightening.

Read on in Pieces of a Dream