Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snapping Turtles and Gopher Snakes

We need to learn how to be good neighbors.  I believe the easiest way to become partners with life is to get outside, to be in nature and let her teach us.  

(…), we need to feel the power of a storm against our faces, the fury of the wind, the cycles of destruction and creation that are always occurring.  We need to experience sunlight shining off the swamp grasses, to sit with the sunset, to rest under a tree, to go out in the dark and look up at the stars.  If we can do these things, we will fall in love with life again.  We will become serious about sustaining life rather than destroying it.   

If we spent more time outside, letting life teach us, I know we would change our relationship to the earth.  We would remember what it feels like to be part of life, rather than trying to play god with it.  

From: “What is the relationship I want with the earth?”, by Margaret J. Wheatley, in TURNING TO ONE ANOTHER.

I came across two teachers today, a gopher snake and a snapping turtle.  I happened upon them while out for a bike ride this morning.  I decided to take the path least traveled and headed off on a side trail that leads out of the park I normally bike in.  I opted to follow an unpaved cross-country ski trail that meandered through some prairie area and all of a sudden came across the four to five foot long snake, slowly winding its way across my path.  

I stopped my peddling and jumped off my bike to watch the shimmering behemoth for a moment.  As soon as the snake sensed me, it picked up its pace and disappeared into the taller grasses along side the path.  Catching a glimpse of Minnesota’s largest snake was my reward for deciding to get off the pavement.  

Being in somewhat of a hurry to get home, I wound my way back to the paved trail and followed it to the road, which took me to the paved trail that follows Sand Creek.  The Creek valley eventually leads back to my neighborhood where the Creek was long ago confined to ditches that were put in to drain the peat-filled wetlands that used to be my neighborhood.  Peddling along the tree lined path through the valley, I came across a woman, walking her small white dog, who had stopped to observe a large snapping turtle.  

The turtle was likely a female who had come out of the creek to find a place to lay her eggs.  The turtle had pulled its head and legs into its over one foot diameter shell to avoid the woman and her curious dog.  The woman was encouraging her dog to look at the turtle, and obviously wasn’t aware of how the turtle got its name, as she and the dog jumped back when the turtle lunged out at the little dogs nose with its snapping jaws.  Fortunately, for the dog, the turtle missed, and pulled back into its shell, and the woman and her little white dog walked on with the woman reminding her dog to “watch out, he might bite you!”         

What I learned from these encounters, is that nature can be a source of awe and amazement when we get out and spend time in it, and respect it.  When we disrespect it, it has a way of snapping out at us to remind us that it is not simply there for our amusement.  My hope is that our recent encounters with the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana will remind us that our current lifestyles of consuming oil with little regard for what the impact is on the earth cannot continue.  We have been snapped at, but have we learned anything; or will we simply move on to drill more oil wells to feed our glut for petroleum, continuing to play god in the ocean depths.  

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