Tall Henbit or Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum
Watching the area for additional movement I noticed two garter snakes slowly slide away. Apparently I had disturbed them as they lay sunning on a bright spring day. I shooed the dog away so she would not harm the pair and sat back on my heals to watch the dull black snakes move through the recently mowed lawn.
I’m not afraid of garter snakes though at times they may startle. I know many people who are so terrified of them, or any snake, that they run off screaming as fast and as far as they can to get away. Garter snakes are harmless and a rather friendly little thing to have in the garden. They love to eat slugs, small rodents, bugs and almost anything that will meet their meaty appetites.
I was surprised the first time I touched one of these garden companions. The little stinker had somehow gotten into the warm house on a cool late-summer’s night. My housemate, who is afraid of snakes, was of no use. A grown woman, she was upstairs in a panic, screaming like a schoolgirl! I knew these snakes were harmless, but still, picking one up barehanded was a little disconcerting. As the snake began to quickly slithered away from me across the basement floor, I grabbed it behinds its head. I was surprised at how warm its little body was and how its skin felt smooth and satiny against my arm. What little fear I had of these snakes was dispelled, though I do admit to eagerly depositing it outside the house and thoroughly and repeatedly washing my hands.
There is a reading in the Bible in Numbers 21:6-9 that tells of the Israelites being besieged by venomous snakes after cursing God and Moses for their trying situation of wandering in the wilderness. Moses is directed by God to make a bronze snake and place it on a pole so that anyone who looked upon it could be healed from the bites of the snakes. They had to look upon that which frightened and harmed them.
Not an easy thing to do, to look at what we fear. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt is taped to the side of my monitor and reads "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." At times we must also face the things we think we cannot bear.
Watching the two garter snakes circling back across the sunny stone walkway I noticed their markings. The female’s coloring was a soft mossy green and the male’s bright lime; they were a mating pair. Steadily they made their way closer to where I sat and hesitating for a moment reentered their den under the wood-framed garden.
I returned to my weeding and know that seeing fear for what it really is helps me to also see the blessings in being afraid: being blessed with a growing confidence in reacting appropriately, taking lessons of courage into other areas, gaining mastery over an emotion God has instilled, discovering how quickly and concisely I can pray in the heat of the moment (a skill most mothers develop in short order).
I also realized that the pair of garter snakes would soon be multiplying their blessings to me in the garden with their babies. I doubt my housemate will ever mow the back lawn again.