Friday, February 28, 2014

Sneaking up on a Red-Eared Slider

Today I hosted my first Virtual Field Trip.  I took a 2nd grade class from Utah on a snake hike in hopes of finding a snake that emerged early from hibernation (it was 60 degree again).  No snakes but we got to see a lot of other neat wildlife including a red-tailed hawk that landed 15 feet from me.  I did the whole VFT with my iPhone and the kids loved it.  

As soon as we ended the VFT, I spotted a red-eared slider basking on a rock in the river.  I snuck up and took a short video of the turtle so I could share it with the class later.  Here is the video I got:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interesting Light

I got off the bus this afternoon and as I was walking to my car, the light over the mountains caught my eye.  I took a photo just for the sake of taking a photo.  The photo ending up having an interesting composition as well as light.

I did nothing to this photo other than take it with my iPhone and post it here.

Lunchtime Walk - It Really Is The Little Things

If I don't bring my running gear to work, I stress out about sitting at my desk all day - this just isn't any good for you.  Somedays I can convince myself to get out and go for a walk.  Today was one of those walking days.

During today's lunchtime walk, I did a lot of thinking.  A shitload of thinking actually.  My thinking (yes folks, Cameron can think sometimes) brought me to the realization that I really haven't been doing what I said I would be doing during my 40th year on this planet.  This year is supposed to be about me - ME!  Well, I stopped thinking about me and have been down a few paths that I had no business going down.  My walk today focused me - it focused me on me.  It focused me on the little things.

The little things really make life on earth amazing.  Think about it.  When you see a bird singing in a tree - AMAZING!  When you watch a father and son taking a walk together - INCREDIBLE.  When you witness a young woman having her photo taken at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platter River - INSPIRING.  The world is full of these little things. 

I have not been paying much attention at all to the little thing lately.  Work is insane, I have been depressed about my snake work, resentful of the gifts I have, and even more crazy at home - literally, I have not been following what I said I would follow during my 40th year on this planet.  

Today's walk got me thinking.  Yes, I will say it again - Cameron is capable of thinking.  As I was thinking, the little things I saw caught my attention.  I saw the rail bridge and HAD to stop to take a picture.  This bridge has been passed by me on almost every walk or run from work but today it just grabbed me and said, "Cameron, it is really the little things that matter in life".

Old Rail Bridge Crossing Cherry Creek
Same with the American widgeon.  I see ducks every day - Shit, I live in Colorado - ducks are everywhere.  That said, unless I am hunting, I have never really look at them.  The widgeon somehow willed me to stop walking, pulled me to the edge of the South Platte River, and posed for a short video.  It really is the little things.

Same with the trail sign - I have seen this sign every time I run or walk by it but I have NEVER stopped.  The sign grabbed me and said, "Look at me".  I did and then I took a photo.  It really is the little things.

My Weekday Trail System

My only conclusion from today's walk is that the Universe has spoken to me.  The Universe saw me straying from my 40th year plan and gave me a gentle kick back towards what matters in life - appreciating the little things and accepting the gifts that we are given EVERY second of our lives.  I am just glad the Universe didn't decide to hit me with a truck to remind me of this.  All it took was a bridge, a duck, and a sign.

I am going to ask you for something now.  I am going to ask you to stop reading my blog right now and look around you.  Please count 20 little things (yes - 20 things!) that you appreciate.  I will do this first as an example:

20 things around me right now that I appreciate

  1. The wonderful dinner we just ate - no leftovers!
  2. The noise coming from the living room (the oldest is teaching the middle one how to play the guitar)
  3. The youngest clicking his tongue because he is happy
  4. Chewbacca (the mean cat) begging for food
  5. The big dog running around the house checking on everyone
  6. The chirping from the new chicks we just got
  7. The paper snowflakes covering the windows in the kitchen
  8. The basil plant surviving the winter
  9. There are still 2 boxes of Life cereal in the pantry (growing boys eat a box a day)
  10. The rainbow lomb bracelet my youngest made for me at school that I am wearing right now
  11. The little dog laying his chin on my thigh just to check in
  12. The complete mess of pens, pencils, markers, and crayons I can see in the dining room
  13. The pile of homework with good grades on the counter from all the boys
  14. The really cute dog salt and pepper shakers on the table
  15. The ice maker dumping ice into the bin so my next vodka tonic will be cold and delicious
  16. The old dog making that annoying noise again - he really just wants to be near me
  17. The butterfly on a stick that reminds our whole family of Grandma Tease
  18. The photos of family and friends on the refrigerator
  19. The empty box of instant oatmeal packets left over from breakfast - we have boys that eat two packs a day
  20. The dishwasher because I hate doing dishes
It may seem hard but it really isn't.  Everyday, we take the gifts given to us for granted.  It is time to slow down and appreciate them.  This is the lesson the Universe wants me to learn and I will try to listen.  Just making the list above while sitting at the kitchen table has put a smile on my face.  It was that simple.

It Really Is The Little Things - Appreciate What You Have

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dreaming of Snakes - Part 3

Fisheating Creek

I want to be there right now.  I need to be there soon.  I will be there.

What will I do there?  I will find a rainbow snake.

What else can I say? I need to be there now!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dreaming of Snakes - Part 2

Winter sucks!  I did get out last week for my first Snake Run of the year.  I will try to record all my snake runs to share with you so you can experience finding some snakes with me.

Nice face Cameron!


Before and After #2

Oreo Cookies



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Before and After #1

Time to start a new series called Before and After.  This is installment #1.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dreaming of Snakes - Part 1

Winter in Colorado is long - very long.  Yes, we have days and even weeks of incredible sunny and warm weather but as a snake lover these just aren't good enough.  I go through a MAJOR withdrawal from snakes in the fall and then have impatient tantrums all February waiting for the snakes to come out again.  It sucks!  I grew up in Georgia and then lived there again for 10 years as an adult and was spoiled rotten with snakes.  Not only are there twice the number of snake species in Georgia, I could find a snake any day of the year as long as the sun came out.  Even when the sun wasn't out, there were always logs to roll with many different species of salamanders hiding under them or wetlands to visit as the chorus frogs and peepers got it on.  In Colorado, there is a complete lack of snakes and other herps from middle October until the middle of March.  No wonder I am depressed.

Scene from January 4 this year - Cold as a witch's tit.
About this time of year (as noted above), I start to get really impatient for spring.  Dreams (both day and night) of the swamps in the southeastern United States flood my brain knowing that they are going crazy with herps.  Snakes can be easily found basking just about anywhere.  In Florida, this is the best time of year to find certain species of snakes that disappear from the surface world during summer only to reemerge again in the fall.  

The short-tailed snake (Lampropeltis [Stilosoma] extenuata) is one of the handful snakes in Florida (and the southeast for that matter) that I have never seen in the wild.  It is known to be notoriously difficult to find but that is because most herpetologists (including me) look for it during the summer.  This is obviously the wrong time of year for a snake that is most active in the winter.  I learned after I left Florida that I should be looking for these pencil shaped snakes in winter and not summer.  The only short-tailed snake I have ever seen was caught by my graduate advisor at the University of South Florida.  He brought one in and put it on the center of the table during our weekly lab meeting thinking that none of his students would know what it was - they are a very infrequently encountered snake afterall.  As I sat down I exclaimed, "Holy shit, where did the Stilosoma come from?".  Henry looked at me with the look of a wounded child that just dropped his ice cream cone. 
Short-tailed Snake - Damn these are cool snakes.
It took a while but finally got Henry to divulge where he found the snake.  He must have known I would spend the entire summer that year looking for my own short-tailed snake instead of focusing on my graduate work.  No wonder I never finished my degree at USF.  I did however find the exact spot where Henry caught the snake.  USF had a parcel of land just north of campus that was used by the Ecology Department for various projects and experiments.  Henry put out a lot of AC (artificial cover for the non-field herping readers) as part of a herp inventory project.  Ask any herpetologist about AC - the response you will get it that AC is a great place to find snakes.  Needless to say, I was out almost every day flipping the AC in hopes of finding a short-tailed snake.

Artificial Cover at its best in Colorado
Back to how I found the exact spot where Henry caught the Stilosoma.  Henry was a chronic cigar smoker.  Everywhere he went, Henry was chewing on a cigar butt and lighting it up when he got the chance.  The only thing that would ever make Henry drop a cigar was if he got excited enough to forget he had one.  The day after Henry brought in the short-tailed snake, I just knew I would find one for myself so I flipped EVERY piece of AC in the ecological preserve that I could find.  One piece of AC about halfway through my blind rage of AC flipping had a chewed up half of a cigar under it.  DAMN!  I knew what that meant.  This was the piece of AC where Henry found the short-tailed snake.  I memorized its location, confirmed with Henry that he dropped his cigar when he found the snake, and visited that piece of AC every day until I was asked to leave USF. I was possessed.

I still have not found a short-tailed snake which makes this time of year is very difficult for me.  Florida calls for me to escape my snake-less winter and flip AC until I find my short-tailed snake.

So what do I do about my snake-less winters?  Well, for starters, any warm day I keep my eyes wide open for any snake - even a gartersnake gets me super excited this time of year.  For example - the high temperature yesterday was about 55 degrees.  Did that stop me from looking for snakes?  NO!  I walked an extra 1.5 miles during my lunch break (normally I walk 3 miles but yesterday I walked 4.5 miles) just to visit a gartersnake hibernaculum along the South Platter River.  No snakes yesterday but I will likely run or walk by the hibernaculum every warmish or sunny day until I find a gartersnake.  I get super-possessed about finding my first snake in the spring that I practically give up trying to work on days over 60 degrees - I have to find a snake.

Gartersnake Hibernaculum on the South Plate River - can you see the snake?
Two years ago, I got EXTREMELY lucky on March 14th.  I had not found a snake yet that spring.  I was beginning to doubt my ability to find snakes and I know I have one of the best snake search images in the world for snakes (Is this arrogant?  Certainly but I will "out snake" any challengers and I welcome anyone to challenge me.).  Doubt is not a good thing for someone who has a snake-spotting ego like mine so I was working hard to prove to myself I still had the ability to find a snake.  I hated my job at the time so I would take 3 hour lunch breaks on warm days just to find a snake.  Still no snakes - I was struggling that year.

Rainbow snake - not the south Florida variety
On March 14th, I was scheduled to fly to Florida for our first attempt at rediscovering the south Florida rainbow snake (another story).  My ego and arrogance desperately needed a snake for good luck before I headed to Florida.  My flight was at 6:00pm that night so instead of going to work, I played hooky to find a snake.  My blatant disregard for work paid off in spades.  I now hold the earliest known record for a Great Plains milksnake in Colorado.  I nailed it! 

So how did I do it?  How did I break a record by a full month?  Well - I through responsibility to the wind.  I risked getting fired for taking for time off I really didn't have and worked my ass off walking rocky southeastern facing slopes looking for snakes.

The Center for Snake Conservation has been conducting a snake inventory for the City of Boulder on about 3 square miles just north of town.  It is a parcel of land that currently does not have any "official" trails (although there is a social trail) but it is slated to be developed as a recreational open space in the next 5 years or so.  The city is way ahead of the curve with snake conservation.  Their ecological program is run by 3 ornithologists (I do hold that against them sometimes) but luckily they understand the importance of snakes to a healthy ecosystem.  The CSC was contracted to find snake hotspots that should be avoided by the new trail system.

Rocky hillside = HEAVEN
That day I played hooky to catch a snake before my Florida trip, March 14th, was the first real day in 2012 that I actually had a chance to find a snake.  It was going to reach 70 degrees in the afternoon and had been warm the two days prior to my visit to the north Boulder grasslands.  Like I said above, I worked my ass off.  The best way to find a snake in Colorado during spring is to flip rocks - lots of rocks.  I headed to our site in north Boulder with the hopes of maybe finding a gartersnake, or if I was lucky, a rattlesnake that came out a bit early.  I never dreamed I would find a milksnake.  Milksnakes are known as a May snake and are the snake of 1000 rocks - meaning you have to flip 1000 rocks before you find one (another story).  However, that is exactly what I did - I found a milksnake on March 14th.

I was beginning to get frustrated when I finally found the milksnake.  I had been flipping rocks for over three hours on the steep slopes of our north Boulder site.  I was tired.  I needed to pack for my trip to Florida.  I needed water.  I needed a massage.  I was not going to give up until my famous and arrogant search image came through for me.  I spotted a baby bullsnake basking right next to a small hole next to some large rocks. I jumped for joy.  I found my first snake of 2012.  WTF - read this paragraph again - every sentence starts with "I".  Oh well - so I throw in some bad writing every now and again.

Bullsnakes are not a new snake for me so I no longer "have to catch" them (another story).  Using my camera to capture them in situ (as found) is much more rewarding now instead of quickly pouncing on them.  As I kept my eye on the baby snake, I began to swing my camera around off my back (where I keep it so it doesn't bang on the rocks as I bend over to flip them) to take a picture of the baby bullsnake in situ.  As soon as I brought the camera to my eye, the snake bolted down the hole.  FUCK - I should have grabbed it to make sure I caught a snake to ensure good snake mojo followed me to Florida.  Little did I know that my luck was about to explode.

Small hole leading to hibernaculum that the baby bullsnake escaped down. Rock with the prize is to the right.
Unlike adults, baby bullsnakes in situ are not very easy to find so when you find one you better keep looking for another one.  They seem to occur in twos and threes.  Knowing this, I was pretty confident that if I flipped the nearby rocks, I would easily find another bullsnake to get the giant and grotesque snake-less winter monkey off my back.  I got to work flipping rocks.  The third rock I flipped about flipped me out.  Under the rock was a milksnake almost 3 feet long.  It was a monster!  Milksnakes in Colorado are normally around 2 feet long so just the size of it got me excited.  I don't remember what I screamed as I found my March 14th monster milksnake but I am guessing it was close to what my friend and mentor screamed when we found a pale milksnake together in Nebraska 19 years earlier - "THERE'S THE MOTHER FUCKER NOW!".  Yes, John - you really did scream that.

March 14, 2012 - Great Plains Milksnake
I did it!  I found a snake before my Florida trip. Not only did I find a snake, I found a fucking milksnake in March.  This is unheard of in Colorado.  I was pumped and beyond excited for my trip to Florida - I just knew I would find the south Florida rainbow snake.  Unfortunately that did not happen but I do still hold the earliest record for a milksnake in Colorado.

So what does that mean today?  It means I am dreaming of snakes.  When I dream of snakes, I cannot think about anything else.  Work tasks don't get completed.  Dinner doesn't get made.  I don't do anything except read and dream about snakes.  My mind goes to happy place regardless of the stress and consequences this brings.  Snakes are my happy place.  Snakes are my religion (not the freaky venomous snake free-handling kind of religion though).

Both of these snakes are rattlesnake eating snakes - I prefer to free-hand these.  :)
I will be dreaming about my March 14th milksnake hoping to break my record by finding one in February.  All my free time will be spent in the field looking for snakes before the chorus frogs even start calling or the tiger salamanders make their overland journeys to breeding ponds.  I am possessed and crazy about snakes this time of year - 4 months of no snakes is way too long for me.  

Florida is on my mind.  Florida is on my agenda.  I turn 40 this year so I am planning a solo trip to Florida to visit my old haunts - to catch some of my favorite snakes.  The short-tailed snake is on my list to find this year but first I need to book my trip.  Do any of you out there want to fund my trip?  I just need about $500.  I doubt I could be that lucky but I had to ask.  Hell, we could make it a tax deduction for you - hint, hint.

All I see is snakes in this photo
South Florida Rainbow Snake habitat
Seriously though - whatever it costs, it is worth me getting out of Colorado in the next month or so. As soon as I start catching snakes, my mood changes.  My SAD disappears with the beginning of snake season. This makes me wonder why I live in Colorado.  Oh yeah - it is incredible here if I just can survive the snake-less winter every year.

Even the smallest snake makes me happy

Monday, February 17, 2014

Learning to Fly

If you have ever spent any amount of time with me, you will probably heard at least one Tom Petty song playing in the background.  If you were lucky, you got the hear me belt out the lyrics.  It may not have sounded pretty but the meaning behind the lyrics are pretty powerful to me.
I have told you about my "Breakdown" experience, but here is another Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song that really rings in my ear - especially now.  I am "Learning to Fly".
Learning To Fly
Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

 I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

 I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

 I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing
Learning To Fly

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rainbow in the Sky

This morning as I plugged in my ears (headphones) and turned on Pandora, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had forgotten that I had been listening to a Reggae channel the last time I used Pandora.  The song that hit me was a perfect song for the cold, nasty, snowy day we are experiencing today - Rainbow in the Sky preformed by Ziggy Marley. 

Today's Weather
I think I will start smoking pot, chill to Reggae, and let me (my) worries float away - wouldn't that be the life!  Pot is legal in my state after all.  :)

"Rainbow In The Sky"

There's a rainbow in the sky all the time don't be blind
There's a rainbow in the sky all the time don't be blind don't be blind

Said you I'm living in my fantasy
But is you who are blinded from reality
The material world mean so much to you
You just can't get what I'm telling you

There's a rainbow in the sky all the time don't be blind don't be blind

Cause in a town called sorrow there was joy
Yes and there I met the painless tear
Freed he expressed emotions that egos fear
My life is full of colors yeah my mind is clear

There's a rainbow in the sky rainbow in the sky

Found I mercy in every sunrise
I am born again from the womb of the night
All I have I have left behind
Minds' eye eyes eye a light will shine

There's a rainbow in the sky all the time don't be blind don't be blind
Rainbow in the sky rainbow in the sky

Monday, February 3, 2014

If I let you in...

I recently got an email from one of my sisters checking in with me.  She noticed that I haven't blogged in a while .  In addition to not blogging, I just haven't had the motivation/gumption/intrinsic push to run.  This means my blog is empty, empty, empty.  My sister's email came right as I was waking up from the fog that has consumed me for the last 3 weeks which was perfect timing to jump start this blog.

The phrase, "If I let you in", is pretty fucking significant in my world and I will let you know why.  Currently in my therapy, I am using a type of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique to tackle traumatic images/events in my life.  Instead of following my therapist's fingers back and forth across my eyes, I hold a small egg in each hand which vibrate in sequence (left, right, left, right).  This bilateral stimulation works the same way as the fingers but they just haven't renamed it yet (maybe they have but I don't know about it).  I am not going to go into the details of how EMDR works here but it is a quite fascinating and effective technique to deal with trauma.

EMDR equipment
My trauma is not like the extreme trauma that someone experiences in abuse.  It is not the kind of trauma that comes from violent event or extremely disturbing situation either.  Those types of events are not in my life and I am VERY thankful of that.  We are using EMDR to tackle the repeating loop of my negative self thoughts and help me turn towards positive thoughts instead.  In my therapy, I choose a negative memory that I can visualize (some of my memories are so embedded in my brain that I can see them with my eyes open) and then begin to focus on that image as the bilateral stimulation begins in my hands.  I let my mind go wherever it takes me always focusing on the image as it changes from one thing to another.  I have just begun this therapy but I have had some interesting results.  Today's blog is a play-by-play of my last EMDR session.

I started with an image from when I was in ninth grade.  This image is very negative to me but I am going to keep it to myself.  You would probably find it trivial but that is not the point.  It was negative to me and has shaped my negative self-loathing mindset.  You just don't need to know what the image was for this blog anyway - just that there is something from when I was in the ninth grade that I can still see/hear like it happened this morning.

As soon as I had the image in my mind, I got instantly nauseous.  My entire abdomen felt sick.  It felt like the moment you realize you drank too much and there is NOTHING you can do to stop regurgitating your night's worth of food and drink in the next five minutes.  I focused on this feeling and in particular I focused on NOT throwing up.  This just shows how powerful and negative the image I was using for this session is to me.

As I was focusing on not vomiting in my therapist's office, a new image appeared that I followed.  It was the image of the Great Wall of China.  This was my barrier to keep my vomit in - my Great Wall of Cameron  Even in my image, a giant sea of my shit/sewage/mental crap began to appear on the inside of the wall.  This was a sea of black sludge being held in by the Great Wall of Cameron.  Yep!  This image describes my everyday life.  What happened next even surprised my therapist - I defended my wall.

As I was watching the wall and sea of black shit/sludge, someone approached my wall from the outside.  I could not see who this person was but I did see a small man appear on the wall.  This man immediately began shooting arrows at the approaching person even with them being way out-of-range.  The person kept approaching my wall until they started noticing the constant stream of arrows coming towards them.  This made them stop and wait.  Eventually this person got bored of waiting for the arrows to stop and just left.  This is when I noticed that the small man on the wall shooting arrows at the person approaching was me.  I was defending my wall.

Please understand that the events/images I am describing weren't a story line that developed in my head.  They are images that appeared as I focused on the previous image.  I did not control them nor could I have controlled them even if I wanted to.  The next image is a clear example of this.

After the person got bored and left me alone on my wall, I wanted to explore.  My mind wanted to walk up or down the Great Wall of Cameron containing the black sludge of my life.  No matter how hard I tried to move, I was FROZEN in one spot.  I could look forward or backward but I could not move along the wall.  I was there protecting the wall and I could not leave my post.

I then began to grow.  Weird I know but I watched myself grow.  I grew to the point where I began to slowly topple the wall outward.  This allowed the black sludge to climb up the wall.  This black sludge quickly turned into a Venom-like creature.  For those of you who know anything about Spiderman, Venom is a villain that came from outer space but has to develop a symbiotic relationship with a human to thrive.  It first bonded with Peter Parker (Spiderman) but after Peter rejected the creature, it bonded with another man who was extremely jealous of Peter.  This dislike of Peter created a violent and powerful foe for Spiderman.  In my EMDR session, I now had Venom made out of shit creeping up my wall as my giant self toppled it forward.

Venom and Spiderman
As soon as I noticed the black sludge-Venom working its way up to me and my wall was falling, I shrank back down to the proportionate size I was before.  It was too late - the black sludge had wrapped itself around my legs and pulled me into it and the black sludge filled sea.  As if it had never toppled, the wall holding the sludge in was upright and strong again.

The sludge ocean then receded like the tide, taking me away from my wall deeper into myself.  It stopped pulling me after we passed a line of GIANT sand dunes.  There were now two more barriers to the outside just in case someone breached my Great Wall - a giant barren ocean bottom and a wall of giant sand dunes.   Across the barren plain, I could hardly see the Great Wall of Cameron but I knew it was there.  The sand dunes were tall and steep.  I can only guess that this final barrier was made of sand because of how hard and slow it is to cross a giant pile of sand.  For every step up and forward, you slip back a half step and fill your shoes with sand.  If you want to keep people out or discourage someone from finding you, hiding behind a barren expanse and giant sand dunes is a great choice.

The great barren expanse
After this last image of the sand dune barrier, the new images went away from barriers and towards dealing with my shit (black sludge) and where it was.  This part of my EMDR session isn't relevant to this blog so I am going to stop here.

Okay - here is a summary of the session:

  1. First image
  2. Vomit
  3. Great Wall of China
  4. Black sludge ocean
  5. Defending my wall
  6. Growing and wall collapsing forward
  7. Sludge almost escaping
  8. Shrink back down and sludge grabbing me
  9. Sludge ocean receding with me
  10. Expansive barren plain
  11. Giant sand dune barrier
This brings me to the title of my blog - "If I let you in".

After seeing how much I go through to hide the shit that floats around inside of me, I am surprised I ever let anyone near me.  Actually I am not surprised.  I doubt anyone really knows who I am even those closest to me.  Even if you can convince me to stop shooting at you, you will have to find a way over the Great Wall of Cameron.  Even if you can get to the top of my wall, you have to travel across a barren ocean bottom without any clues on which way I went after the ocean of shit recedes with me in it.  If you choose to wander across the barren of my insides, you will come to a row of giant sand dunes.  I doubt many people would attempt to climb them just to find me.  Most people will get the hint by then and leave.  Other people will just get angry and take it out on me.  It takes work to find me even if I let you in.

Dune barrier
So if I ever "let you in", just know that I have given you access to the inner me.  You have had to wait out my defense of arrows, climb the Great Wall of Cameron, cross the barren plains of my insides, and then climb the tall barrier of dunes.  I have given you access to something that I try very hard to hide.

So what happens if I let you in?  I don't really know.  That shit just doesn't happen - I have too many barriers and I just don't let people in willy-nilly.  I have huge "what if" fears if I left you in.  For example:

  • I let you in - you will shut me out.
  • I give you access - you will close your door.
  • I share my life - you will use it against me.
  • I give you gifts - you throw them out.
  • I ask for something - you give me nothing.
  • I want more - you will hold back.
  • I succeed - you will expect more.
  • I show you the true me - you won't like me anymore.
  • I let you in - you will abandon me.
It is the last two bullets that scare the shit out of me.  I don't like myself so how could anyone else like me?  If I do let someone inside, they will see me for who I really am - a failure.  If I let you in - you will abandon me.

EMDR has shown me my barriers.  It is up to me to break them down.  It is up to me to clear away the sludge.  It is up to me to "let you in".  I have a LOT of shit to deal with.  Patience is what I need from you.  Not anger from reading this.  Not anger from learning about how I keep you out.  Not anger from from my silence.  I have always been scared of anyone discovering my true feelings for myself so I hide them deep.  I hide them under the excuses I bulleted above and the Great Wall, barren flats, and giant sand dunes.  I hide my feelings from everyone.  

However, there are ways I have been letting you in already.  I have let you in with my photos (unfortunately none of the photos in this blog are mine).  I have let you in with my words.  I have let you in with my blog.  I have let you in farther than anyone else.  You are reading about things I have only ever discussed with my therapist.  You are getting a glimpse of the black sludge/shit inside me.

Be happy as I am happy.  I am looking forward (not backwards) for the first time ever.  Be happy because I am finding happiness.

If I let you in - feel blessed.  If I ask you to come in - well, only you will know what that feels like.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Fortune Cookie Knows Me Well

Yesterday was Chinese New Year.  As a slave to tradition, we ordered Chinese take-out.  Most fortune cookies have lame or confusing fortunes but mine yesterday spoke directly to me.  I need to listen and you should listen too.


Coachwhip - A "How to" Video

Coachwhips are one of North America's longest and fastest snakes.  They are also very striking and beautiful.  However, these reasons are not why I am so fascinated by them.  I can't get enough of coachwhips because they are extremely intelligent.  I even believe they have the intelligence of some birds.  As an example, I will describe some of the defensive strategies of coachwhips.

Defensive strategies

Coachwhips may just be one of the most difficult to catch snakes.  This is because they have some pretty unique defensive strategies and are just plain smart.


Like all snakes, their first strategy is to flee which they do with very high success.  These snakes can travel 3-4 mph (maybe faster on a hard surface) in a straight line.  Most humans can casually walk 2-3 miles per hour so you have to run to catch a coachwhip.  Well, the majority of fleeing coachwhips head straight to the nearest dense shrub, hedgerow, or hole and quickly disappear.

The coachwhips that can't find a briar laden hideout aren't a piece of cake to capture though.  These snakes zip side-to-side and even double back on themselves.  I have seen racers and coachwhips even go through their pursuers legs before.  You just can't anticipate or judge what they are going to do when being chased.


If you know me, you know I firmly believe that snakes are not aggressive.  By definition, aggression is the intent to harm or injure without cause.  So how do you define the behavior of a cornered coachwhip?

A cornered coachwhip is a sight to behold.  They typically will climb the nearest shrub or tree and then turn to face you.  Once at eye level, they will repeatedly strike at your face and eyes.  How do they know where you are the most vulnerable?  It is because they are intelligent.  I call this an offensive defensive behavior.  Coachwhips would not strike at you (offense) unless you are chasing and cornering them (defense).  This shows intelligence.


If fleeing and offense don't work to deter a human predator, coachwhips resort to death feigning.  They just go limp.  They die right there in your hands and if you haven't experienced it before you really would think they are dead.  A coachwhip's death feigning is not the writhing, shitting, and flipping back over that a hog-nosed snake does.  Coachwhips just die.  Have you ever held a dead snake?  It is like a heavy limp rope that just dangles there.  Experiencing this with a coachwhip is really weird because they are such a fast, agile, and incredible snake in life.  However, if left on their own, they will wake up and quickly disappear.

Western Coachwhip playing dead
Same Coachwhip as above 30 minutes later upon release
So how do you catch a coachwhip?  If they can remain camoflauged even when bright pink/red, zoom away quickly into the briar patch, or bite you in the face when you corner them, they certainly must be a tough snake to catch.  While on a trip to New Mexico, the coachwhips had been eluding the other herpers with me.  I finally decided that I needed to show them how to catch a coachwhip.  Armed with my GoPro strapped to my chest, I began to walk the sandy areas surrounding the Canadian River where I knew there would be lots of snakes.  Within five minutes, I was on the trail of a coachwhip.

Watch the video below - you have to move fast, dive without hestitation, and ignore the slashing bites of a coachwhip.  This may be one of the biggest thrill of snake catching.

There is a consequence of catching coachwhips and that is that most will give you a slashing bite.  Coachwhips do not chomp down on you like a ratsnake or kingsnake.  Instead they grab whatever they can and pull back causing their teeth to cut you rather than puncture you.  A bite from a coachwhip bleeds more than hurts but it still is an incentive to let go of it.  Another smart way of getting away.

Once caught and held properly (support the snake and let it move how it wants to - NEVER hold a snake behind its head - this just causes them to struggle which is stressful to the snake), coachwhips quickly calm down.  This can be witnessed by the photos of the two snakes above being held without biting by children.

New Sport - Soccer Wrestling

Life is too short not to have lots of fun.  Lately, events in my life have not been good to me.  In response I have quit running and blogging even though both of these activities make me very happy.  I can't explain why I haven't been doing these thing - just that I haven't been myself (or maybe I went back to my old self).

So, what do you do on a Saturday morning when there is 6 inches of new snow on the ground?  Well - sledding is a must but that will come later.  Second is to invent a new indoor sport.  Today's sport is very simple to play but you some special equipment:  a size 1 soccer ball and a size XL Big Dog.

Enjoy - Soccer Wrestling