I often look for spiritual messages in life’s happenings. It’s a lot like reading a book and looking for symbolism, but the book I’m reading is life. This is rooted in the belief that everything is connected, and if you are paying attention, spiritual guidance is all around you. I see messages in numbers, nature, patterns, text, dreams and “coincidences.”
Ancient people saw signs in nature through animal totems, that is, certain animals symbolized or brought certain messages; if any of those animals appeared to you, you were getting a specific message to help you on your spiritual path. For example, if you kept seeing an eagle (in its physical form or in dreams), the universe, God, angels (whatever floats your boat) was telling you that you should strive for greater spiritual heights. There are tons of books and websites that are devoted to animal totems. I typically try to glean my own meanings out of what I see, but it’s fun to look up animals that appear to me and see what the author thinks its meaning is.
I have a pretty unhealthy fear of snakes, no doubt engendered by my mother, who does a “happy dance,” as she calls it, whenever a snake crosses her path, which, unfortunately for her, happens a lot. The happy dance isn’t happy at all. It’s a jig born out of sheer terror. She cranks her fists to her shoulders and does a tippy-toe pounding rhythm with her feet that any drummer would envy, and busts out some primal utterances akin to speaking in tongues. It’s a sight to see (unless it’s me doing this same exact dance; please avert your eyes). So you could imagine my horror when my realtor first showed me the house I currently live in: just as I was walking up the driveway, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a snake slither into a hole in the concrete. I looked at my husband, and all he could muster was, “I didn’t see anything.”
At that time, there were three houses for sale on the same block in the same model. One we dubbed the “yellow house” (it was yellow), the next, the “Pergo house” (they had Pergo floors in the dining room), and ours, the “snake house” (for obvious reasons). It was quite apparent that the snake house was the best fit for us: it had a great view, better price, hot tub, granite, new appliances, yada, yada, yada. But I had my reservations because of that snake. I thought it was a sign: Stay the hell away!
If being met by Mr. Slither on my first visit was not enough, I saw him on the second visit, and it put me over the edge. I ranted to my husband all the reasons why we couldn’t buy the house: What were the chances of seeing the snake twice on two separate occasions?! The house probably had a snake problem–that’s why it was priced better! Maybe the whole block had a snake problem–people were trying to move out! We should just stay in Denver and expand our house! My husband, being a reasonable man, reasoned that he’d patch the hole in the concrete. I wasn’t convinced. I told my girlfriend about it expecting her to be an ally, but she said, “Oh! That’s a great omen!”
She showed me her animal totem book and read that snakes are a sign of rebirth and new beginnings because they shed their skins. And that’s all it took. Something in my soul knew that I had to buy that house.
As promised, my husband patched the hole, and I didn’t see the snake again until several years had passed. By the time I saw it (or its offspring, or a friend), I had made peace with snakes. They still rattle me (pun intended) when I see them–something I can’t quite shake (like a rattle)–but maybe they’re supposed to make me jump: “Holly! Wake up! Time for something new!”
So my latest bout with an animal happened on Earth Day. Nice touch, eh? It was a glorious day, but too cool to sit outside and write, so I did the next best thing: opened the back door to enjoy the spring air and songs of nature. As I was working, a bird flew into my house. It was a male Clark’s Nutcracker or maybe a Northern Flicker. I don’t know what it is about a bird flying in my house, but it gets my hackles up. Birds are just so freaked out when they get “trapped” in a house, they do the bird version of my mom’s happy dance; their energy freaks me out. He knocked over some trinkets and pooped on my hardwoods. All I wanted to do was get my feathered friend out the door. But no. Every time I got close to him, he’d fly past the open door to a new room and try to go through a glass pane. I kept telling him to just go out the door, but I guess he didn’t speak English.
We did this dance for about thirty minutes until he did a beak-dive into my kitchen window and fell to the ground. I thought for sure he was injured. I felt terrible. But then he flew to a window sill, then back to the floor and started running for cover, straight past the wide open door again, under my sofa. So I got an idea: If he wanted to go from window to window, I would give him more opportunities to flee. I took off the screens of several windows, then got the broom out to coax the wee beast out of his safe house. He came running out (literally) and just went with that very crude form of mobility. He ran to the next room as I chased him with a broom, past the open front door, and under a coffee table. With another nudge of the broom, he ran under the dining room table and back to the kitchen. I felt like I was in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Finally, in the kitchen, he flew up to the window sill. He was three inches away from an open window. I stopped. We stared at each other. I brought the broom up to him quietly saying, “You’re right there. Just fly through…”
He hopped to the right once. I held my breath. Then he hopped once more. He was an inch away! He suddenly turned his little bird head and was like, “Oh, freedom.” And he flew out the window.
So the message? Am I being lead to something better, and I’m too much of a bird brain to see it? Quite possibly. Or am I serving as the messenger for you? Fly! Be free!