#Bless #AdventWord

The hiking trail through Alexander State Forest in south central Louisiana runs along the convoluted shore of Indian Creek Reservoir. Walking it on a summer afternoon, I occasionally glimpsed water through the trees, and on one of those occasions, purple flowers on tall stalks.

Pickerel weed! I left the trail and made my way carefully over fallen wood and through thick brush to the water’s edge, planted my feet carefully and leaned out over the shallow inlet to get the best possible shot of the flowers.

I shot several frames, adjusting focus and angle slightly and then, without moving my foot or body or even the camera, something compelled me to turn my head slowly to the left. Was it a movement? The feeling that another creature was looking at me?

I don’t know. But here is what I saw.

Broad-banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata confluens)

For most of my life, the sight of this small, harmless snake smiling up at me would have sent me charging back to the trail, most likely tripping and falling. But about two years ago, I decided that if I wanted to be a Master Naturalist, I had to get beyond my fear of snakes.

Hate can only be overcome with love, evil with good. To tame a demon, invite it in, make friends with it. Of course, snakes are neither evil nor demons. Like all of creation, they belong. But…..

And so I read about snakes, looked at pictures of snakes, and then one day, made an appointment with a friend who works at the zoo. He held Monty Python, I took pictures, including close-ups, and when I put down the camera, he casually held out the snake and I took it into my hands.

I did not pick up this little Nerodia I encountered in the Alexander State Forest. I shot a few frames, then carefully backed away and returned to the trail. And I blessed it and accepted its blessing.

What or who do you need to #bless this Advent season? And to what or whom do you need to open your heart and mind and allow to #bless you?

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