Gravity, a snake, and gratitude

11-20-2017 | Lindsay

I’ve been taken with a Rilke poem, "Gravity's Law", which begins:

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

I like the idea of gravity as a flow taking hold of  “each thing—each stone, blossom, child”, and pulling us toward something deep and vital. I wonder about the mystery of this; why it is that so often we miss knowing ourselves securely held and carried; and I wonder about the graceful and strong current that connects individual arcs of being to the communal experience of belonging that we so need and long for.

Gravity was the catalyst for an event of significance at Rolling Ridge last week.  My husband Billy was working one night in the back room of our cottage-like house when a small snake plummeted to the floor from the rafters.  A juvenile, it was as startled as Billy. It began moving fast, and while we registered that it had colorations similar to a rattler or copperhead, the focus of available brainpower was on capturing the critter, particularly when it shot into the bedroom and headed for the bed.  We finally managed to get it into a saucepan and slammed down the lid, but not before all the wriggling and wrangling had resulted in Billy receiving a nip on the hand. Living on nature’s doorstep has consequences.

Snake in pot, we went immediately out the front door and across the yard to where our community neighbors, Josh and Kate, were spending the waning evening hours working in the Deer Spring garden.  Concerned, they looked at the snake curled in the pot and at Billy’s hand, which seemed none the worse for wear.  Nevertheless Josh suggested we consult Scot. who has considerable knowledge of snakes. So off we went to the next community house, where Scot and Linda were having a quiet hour visiting with friends.  Scot wisely got a large bucket and transferred the snake from the little pot.  Linda and Scot pulled out all their reptile resource books and we compared pictures for some time, concluding that the snake was likely nonvenomous, and would do well to be released into the grasses to grow up and eat rodents.  A flurry of late night research by everyone involved, as reported in texts and emails, confirmed our conclusion. So did Billy’s continued good health.  Relief and not a little laughter ensued.

It’s a week later now and as a community we’ve moved on to other things: meetings, work, conversations.  What lingers in my memory is the experience of walking fast and without thought out of our house, snake in pot, and into the wisdom, spaciousness, generosity, and forgiveness of companions in community who received us in all our bemusement, freely interrupting work and conversations, offering presence, concern, calm, research, and straightforward, loving advice—including that of refraining from picking up snakes by the tail, no matter how small. 

What remains is gratitude and the sensation of being carried, pulled by tendrils of presence, love, and laughter toward the heart of the world.