Monday, March 27, 2017

Rattlesnake Musings and Manta Ray Moments

After I bent over and lifted a dusty rock, a fat coiled rattlesnake glared and hissed within easy striking distance of my face. The day could've easily been my last. I was a two-mile desert walk from the highway, then a thirty-minute hitched ride from a Mexican doctor, whose Spanish questions I could barely comprehend and answer on a good day without venom surging thru my veins. I froze in terror. Then I backed my head and torso away at the speed of tree growth, over the longest meter I've ever crossed, while the slit eyes and forked tongue bobbed menacingly.

Ironically, I was gathering the rocks for constructing a "security wall" around my ranch to protect me from bandits, ex-girlfriends and Jehovah's Witnesses, when I came face to face with a far more lethal intruder. Yet, I lived to tell the tale. Plus from a meter away, the iridescent scales of my fellow wild animal looked like the most beautiful Afghan carpet I've ever seen. Truly, all God's creatures are marvelous. Without danger, there is little adventure; without adventure, there is little wonder; without wonder, there is little flavor in life.

I'd never have sought that dangerous encounter. Yet, the vivid memory of those gray, olive, and copper coils writhing and glistening under the fiery sun is precious to me. I wouldn't erase the imprint it left on my soul, because the awe of nature leads to the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. The serpent's spirit accompanies me still, far away from my Queretaro ranch.

Years later, I had another encounter. I was backfloating on turquoise waves off Chahue Beach in Oaxaca when a dark shadow passed beneath me. I glanced over my shoulder. An ominous hulking kite lay right beside me with one wing lifted out of the water like a black pirate sail. Do Manta Rays sting? It wasn't a good time for uncertainty or a web search, so my body instinctively chose the fear response. Still, there was no reason to conclude that sudden movement would make me safer. So, I looked at him and he looked at me.

Do Manta Rays have eyes? Where the hell is Nat Geo Wild when you need it? While I silently prayed to God and also curiously scanned my new bud, a calm moment passed that will likely never come again. In two blinks, it was gone. In a few more blinks, our life passes by, so you gotta pay attention. We may not pass this way again. As the Manta Ray glides over the profundities of the sea, many land dwellers glide past the profundities of our existence, preferring a safe life to an exhilerating one.

As Americans ponder whether Democrat Barack Obama or Republican Paul Ryan or Libertarian Rand Paul can guarantee them all the medical care they ever desire at an absolute bargain basement price, they might be wiser to remember that living with gusto is risky and that all doctors lose all patients eventually. I really started living when I lost my fear of dying, and I strongly recommend my "insurance plan" to anyone.

Blind and deaf Helen Keller said that "Life is either a great adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure." Helen might have seen and heard far better than most of us. Let's take a spiritual lesson from those bare-legged creeps in trench coats running from the police and expose ourselves to life. As Mel Gibson once said, "Every man dies, but not every man really lives."

1 comment:

  1. I think it depends on the species of ray where their eyes are.