There’s no other noise like it. I hadn’t been paying attention to my surroundings as I traipsed blithely along the dusty path from our coach to the campground bath house. Suddenly I was brought up short by what sounded like an angry pair of maracas.
I froze, fully focused now on the 5-foot rattlesnake coiled less than 4 feet away. If I’d been wearing headphones and not heard the rattle, I’d have stepped right on him. My mind raced, determining the best course of action.
I am a retired U.S. Navy Commander. I served as a commanding officer and as aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I’m trained to be calm and cool in challenging situations. Standing face to face with a rattler reared and ready to strike, I did what came naturally: I screamed like a madwoman….
I found the ranger’s phone number on a campground map and called to alert him about the unwanted visitor. After hanging up, I stood on the metal steps outside the bus door.
By now the snake had slithered into the shade of a nearby tree. Ty hunkered down no more than 10 feet away and snapped one photo after another. The snake flicked his tongue angrily at my husband.
That made two of us. “Ty! Are you crazy?” I hissed.
He seemed to have gone suddenly deaf.
“Must be my lucky day,” I replied as Ty continued snapping photos.
The picture I posted on Facebook later that day was National Geographic quality. The video showed the ranger holding a writhing snake as long as the pole he used to grab it.
My post garnered plenty of sympathetic remarks from those who follow our travels. One comment in particular snagged my attention:
“Snake is good medicine,” wrote the Facebook friend. “He teaches us about transformation and shedding those old skins. Glad that you are okay after being ‘rattled’!’”
This comment was followed by a few others who reminded me that everything significant that happens to us, every remarkable encounter with another human being or with any of God’s creatures, holds a special meaning. When I Googled “snake as totem,” I found the following description on several sites:
“If snake enters your world, expect swift changes to sweep through your life. These changes denote death of the old and a birth into untapped psychic energy, creative power, and wisdom. Snake medicine is the energy of wholeness, cosmic consciousness, and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance.”
I perked up when I read this. Did the rattlesnake foretell a gift?
Since becoming aware of my abilities as a medium, I’d devoted my life to increasing my psychic energy and wisdom. If the snake as a totem—a sacred symbol—had crossed my path for a reason, perhaps I was meant to welcome him instead of running away screaming. If swift changes were on their way, I would be open to them, “without resistance.”
The visit to Arizona marked our fifth summer of traveling the U.S. and Canada to share the messages of hope I glean from across the veil.
When not giving workshops or presentations, Ty and I frequently hike and ride our mountain bikes, enjoying being out in nature as much as possible. Until that day in the campground, we had not come across a single snake during our travels.
My meeting with that granddaddy of all rattlesnakes marked the beginning of a remarkable string of up-close-and-personal snake encounters over the next two months. Our tally went from zero in five years to a remarkable seven sightings in as many weeks.
“The snake’s medicine is not to be treated lightly. If you are ready to shed your own skin, snake is ready and waiting to guide you through the spiral path of transformation.”
These words echoed in my mind on a quick trip I made to our home base in Florida during that surprising period. Having been gone from the house for a while, I ventured into our front yard to do a little weeding. There, in the wood chips next to a bush, I came across an entire snakeskin, shed by some slithery visitor who left his meaningful message not five feet from my doorstep.
Was the Universe trying to get my attention? There could be no doubt.
I prayed to Spirit: Guide me, lead me, show me what I need to learn from this. In response to my prayers, and with gratitude to the snakes, I discovered deep-seated fears going back to my childhood. Once revealed, I could release them.
As promised by the totem, the result was nothing short of transformational in my work. Free of long-held blockages, I experienced a noticeable increase in the clarity of my connection with the other side.
I stand ready to shed my skin at any moment if it means revealing more of the Light within. And while I greatly appreciate the growth the snake encounters engendered within me, those changes can’t compare with an earlier transformation: a bolt out of the blue that altered our family’s lives forever.
The snake totem’s most striking reference echoed in my mind as we left the Tucson area, heading north:
“On the deepest level Snake’s skin shedding symbolizes death and rebirth. Snake signifies manipulation of lightning, transmutation, exploration of the mysteries of life.”
My life has become an ongoing exploration of a greater reality as the result of a most unexpected death: that of Ty’s daughter, my beautiful stepdaughter, Susan. At the age of 27, six months pregnant with her first child, Susan was struck by lightning. Despite working on her for seven hours, her doctors were unable to save either Susan or her baby.
Susan’s passing ultimately led me to discover my abilities as a medium. It is the reason I am so dedicated to this work.
As the snake’s visit highlighted, and the snake reference to lightning in the passage above underscores, my life today represents a complete rebirth from my previous life as a naval officer.
I have been transformed from a woman who once saw the world in black and white, who believed a thing was real only if I could perceive it with my physical senses, to one who now understands that reality has many faces. I have learned that love is all that matters, and in that regard, Susan is my role model.
Excerpted from Still Right Here: A True Story of Healing and Hope by Suzanne Giesemann. Copyright © 2017 by One Mind Books.