This morning I arrived home to a note from the garbage collectors saying they spotted a large snake making its way into my garage. Reading the note, I instantly felt a mix of fear and curiosity. The fear originated from my complete lack of experience with snakes. My curiosity also originated from my complete lack of experience with snakes. The opportunity to investigate an unfamiliar member of the natural world was too tempting to pass up so I put on my muck boots, slipped on a pair of Ove Gloves, opened the garage door, and started creeping around the garage, peeking under furniture, and gingerly moving items around until I found the snake hiding between some spare wood and the garage wall.
My recent nerd purchase of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to the Southeastern States helped me identify the snake as an eastern rat snake. Rat snakes, although slightly cringe-inducing for those of us unfamiliar with snakes, are excellent pest managers. While there are some who kill snakes as soon as they see them, I like to give nature a chance to just be what it is meant to be. If the snake had been poisonous or threatening to my animals, I would have had to kill it. But since it was doing no harm, just trying to find a dry place in the rain, I was only too happy to let it live. I have that attitude with nearly every animal I encounter. Spiders get to live in my house or are taken outside rather than killed (usually). The same goes for soldier bugs. What other people commonly see as threats or pests, I see as nature simply being what nature is. I will kill something if I have to for the protection of my pets, my flock, Brian, or myself, but otherwise I prefer to live and let live.
I wasn’t always like this. The change in me came about when I decided that instead of fearing what I don’t understand, I would learn about it. I became curious and compassionate in regards to other lifeforms. Instead of thinking human trumps everything, I try to remember that every living thing has its importance and should be treated with respect. Even when I do have to kill something, I do so sorrowfully. Some people might think I’m a bleeding heart crazy person, but I choose to think that the way I treat nature matters. I know it makes me feel more at peace with the world around me when I choose respect over fear.