Friday, February 2, 2007

Snake Sheds Skin

My snake finally shed her skin. What a relief! Her beautiful orange, cream and black scales are all shiny and new. And I can see she is longer now, as she motors around her terrarium.

It had been nearly 2 weeks of her in a lethargy. I had just come back from out of town and told myself I needed to feed her. But then she stopped slithering around like she usually does, laying still in a listless coil. Her skin turned a dull gray and her eyes clouded over. She was beginning the process of molting. I knew I would have to wait until it was over before I could feed her.

The first time she went into this more subdued state, I completely freaked out and thought she was dying or very sick. With each successive molt, I've learned to trust a little bit more that it will all work out. Indeed, this snake has taught me to have more patience.

The first time I fed her a larger-sized mouse was pure agony. I sat there watching the whole time, minutes ticking by as she struggled to get the thing down. It seemed unbelievable to me that she could actually swallow a creature that looked so much bigger than her head. I felt terrified that somehow she'd suffocate on her meal. I almost had to sit on my hands to not interfere. I had thoughts of either breaking off the dead mouse's limbs to make it easier for her to swallow or pulling the whole thing out of her jaws to replace it with a smaller one -- both of which would have shocked her system more than anything. Sometimes trying to help only makes matters worse.

Yet I knew she would do it. That was the most amazing part of the lesson for me, realizing that though it seemed an insurmountable struggle, it was not only possible but really quite ordinary in the grand scheme of things. It was probably a blessing that she doesn't possess the chattering mind of a human, so that she could be present with the challenge rather than step back and "realize" it was more than she could handle. Little by little she enveloped the mammalian beast until it disappeared down her gullet. What a great lesson.

Even holding my snake has been a learning experience. I had to learn how to hold her in a manner which just let her be. The first time I held her I gripped too tightly, so that eventually she started to spasm in this weird little "get away from me" dance. I realized I wasn't giving her room to relax and explore, by holding onto her so tightly I gave her no choice but to react against me. Now I hold her as if I am a branch swaying in the wind, and she seems to have a great time cruising around all over me.