let's show some skin


If you’re not the type to bare all, never had a great bikini or Speedo body, yet still want to feel light and airy as the warmth and long nights tiptoe back in, take a cue from the intimidating snake.

No, that’s not a euphemism for your last boy or girlfriend. I’m talking about the garter snake or perhaps a poisonous copperhead, the skin of which was sitting in my woodpile as I dragged out the last logs for the final fires of winter.

Whatever it was, it was cozy enough to drop its drawers. It must have felt glorious in its cold-blooded heart, free, complete, done, before it crept off to scare somebody half to death.  

In reality, the snake has nothing on us; it sheds its crinkly layer a handful of times a year. We get a new top skin every month. And every hour, see it or not, maybe 40,000 tiny skin cells slough off, shreds of dust, a barely noticeable reduction in wrinkles, pockmarks, unsightly moles and hideous scars.

Yet, inspired by the reptile, I’m looking for ways a human being can experience the same big whoosh.

I start cleaning. I throw away flannel nightgowns, torn tee-shirts, faded gym tights. I gather dresses that never fit right, shoes that pinch, and open a new bag for Goodwill. I shake out rugs, wipe down woodwork. I pick up dead branches in the yard, toss away broken slate.

I get a new haircut, shorter, bouncy. I brighten my teeth, ready to smile for spring. I exfoliate ‘til I throb.

I want more.

I think deeper, remembering the snake may be thought of as mean, backstabbing, untrustworthy -- but in the spiritual world it’s the symbol of transformation, rebirth, healing. “What do you need to shake off?” it asks in its hissing, coiling, gutsy way, challenging us to leave our scraps behind in one fell swoop.

“Metamorphosis,” I say aloud to the sky. I throw up my hands and state my willingness to change, put a new stake in the ground, vow to let go of old ways I know clear as the new evening light do not serve me: Pride, indecision, fear -- crusts that keep growing back, that don’t easily break off.

I hold up what the snake left behind -- pale, crackly -- happy my home served as a winter retreat for this hearty reptile. I thank it for giving me a kick in the epidermis, a reason to ponder how to greet the new season with a shake and a wiggle myself, opening up to the fresh and unspoiled.

I read about my symbolic friend and learn if you’re thinking of a new path but hesitate, the snake as your guide supports your efforts, gives you strength, courage. Yet the snake is also said to warn you of moving too fast into something that may not be right for you.

Suddenly, I’m confused.

Is my magical teacher inching me out of my safe protective sheath, or is that bit of fear dripping out of my pores a sign it’s not yet time to fling headlong into a shiny new dawn?

That confounding snake!

I lay its remains in the still chilly garden and am grateful my skin, like my guest’s, will continue to cast off the old, giving me endless opportunities for evolution. I will continue to try -- to slither on -- and hopefully not scare too many people along the way.

March 10, 2019

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