It’s been some time since I was in the wilderness–even a wilderness area close to the city. I’m heading out to a wilderness trail I used to frequent tomorrow. Anticipating the outing I was thinking about the wildlife I have encountered up there–and what it can teach us.
Take the deer. A symbol of grace and beauty. Stories of deer usually add intelligent–after all, they’re graceful and beautiful–they must be intelligent, right? One morning I was running up a fire lane in the wilderness and I encountered one of these beautiful, intelligent creatures. It looked at me and ran straight off the trail–almost. It stuck its head into the brush on the side of the trail and froze. If it couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see it, right? Good thing for the deer I wasn’t a certain gun-toting son-in-law of mine. Apparently beauty and intelligence–or wisdom–don’t necessarily go together.
And of course, there is the snake. In this wilderness, that means a Southern Pacific rattlesnake–very dangerous. I met my first southern Pacific running down a hill in this same area. It was the first black rattlesnake I had ever seen. It looked like a stick, and I came very close to stepping on it before I realized what it was. The thing is, this creature we associate with evil and danger (and it is dangerous) is also very ready to avoid trouble. It even warns us that it is around, so we can give it space and stay out of danger. This dangerous creature isn’t nearly as big a threat as we think as long as we are alert to danger.
Then there are the spiders–specifically tarantulas. Those of you who know me well know I am very comfortable with snakes–I used to raise them. Spiders, that’s different. It doesn’t matter what kind, they are creatures to be feared and avoided. They are sneaky, they jump, and there is no such thing as a non-poisonous spider (though many of them are only mildly poisonous to humans). I am afraid of them. I am really afraid of them. I want nothing to do with them, and the only reason I go back to this wilderness is that, while I know the area is full of them, I have not personally seen one on the trail.
The thing is I know they really aren’t a threat to me. I know they aren’t dangerous–especially compared to the rattlesnakes I feel relatively comfortable with. I know all this, but I’m still afraid of them. I refuse to learn any lesson from the spider–except maybe that sometimes my fears aren’t rational.
God’s creation is amazing. We can learn a lot from it–if we choose to.