Stepping on a rattlesnake is an experience that burns into memory with laser like intensity. I only did it once, but I have total recall of feeling the sudden squish underfoot while hearing the rattle and then finding myself standing 20 feet away looking where I had been.
That moment gave me a wholly new comprehension of the Zen concept “when the cow becomes lightning” referring to action without thought.
The rattler turned out to be a large snake with eleven rattles on its tail. This reinforced my growing realization I had totally botched listening to my own intuition.
I had come home after dark and decided to walk around the outer loop of my figure eight driveway to go in the house. I felt oddly nervous about it, and was busily lecturing myself about relapsing into a child’s fear of the dark when I stepped on the rattlesnake.
That was a lesson to remember.
I learned a lot about trusting my intuition while I lived in that little house in the Goldfield Mountains bordering on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
I often hiked across the desert from the house to the power line. The power line had a four wheel drive dirt track leading to the road that went to the radar station on top of the small mountain above my home.
The top of the mountain was a lovely knob of rock punctured with caves. Sometimes I sat in a cave and watched the afternoon monsoon blast across the valley, roaring with thunder and lightning over the mountaintop as the rain passed. When it was gone, I hiked home again.
I progressed to hiking at night in full moon, which was an amazing experience. The Goldfields formed a ridge separating the Valley of the Sun sparkling with myriad city lights from the Tonto National Forest with no man made lights at all. The view from the little mountaintop was spectacular.
In the heat of summer, the rattlers sleep all day and hunt at night. The cacti have those nasty spines day and night. I had to be extremely careful with the nighttime hiking.
I discovered I had a great sense of when it was ok to go and when it was not. The nights it did not feel right I did not set foot off the patio, having learned my lesson well with the big rattler.
Pushing the Limits of My Intuition
I kept pushing my limits as the hike up the mountain was a great cure for my frequent insomnia. Soon I was hiking with less and less moonlight. I never took a flashlight as it felt alien and wrong for these nocturnal jaunts.
I remember the first time I hiked with no moon at all and a heavy cloud cover. I actually held my hand in front of my face and the night was so dark I could not see it. For some reason, I just wanted to know if I knew the way well enough to go with no light at all. I did not move as fast as usual, but I made it to the top and back undamaged.
By now my neighbors thought I was quite crazy. I noticed they got bit by rattlesnakes and I did not, so I did not worry about their opinions. Instead I experimented with hiking directly up the mountain off the radar station road itself.
An Intuition of Being Followed
One pitch dark night I was on the four wheel drive track going through the little hills and I had the feeling that I was being followed. Apparently I still had the “Didn’t you get over being afraid of the dark when you were eight” lecture handy because I started giving myself the business with it.
After all, no one could possibly be out there to follow me and even if anyone was, they would at least be using lights. I knew the feeling had to be utter nonsense.
On cue, I heard a yip off to my left. Another to my right. Then the whole pack of coyote began yipping at one another from all directions around me. I was encircled by a hunting pack.
Evidently they were as surprised to find a lightless human on the track as I was to encounter them. After the flurry of yips, I did not hear another sound from them until they were well over a mile away.
I no longer live near that wonderful little mountain so I can’t practice my intuition hiking it in the dark anymore. But the lessons gradually learned there have stayed with me through the years.
In a more immediate benefit, all that crazy hiking prepared me to deal with a major health crisis when it arrived in my life. Life is full of surprises indeed.
And as one final little surprise, when I went back to the Goldfields to visit a few years ago, I discovered the path I wore from my home to the power line is now being used as a horse trail. I rather enjoy that thought.
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