Tippi Degréi, from Tippi of Africa.
Tippi was born in Nambia where her parents,
Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, worked as freelance wildlife photographers.
I sit in my chair more than usual this Thanksgiving.
I look out the window at the red and yellow oak leaves and marvel at how the feathery cypress leaves, emerald green just weeks ago, are now deep rust.
And memories appear. And they're of Florida when I lived there in the 70s and 80s. (Maybe they're appearing now because we'll move there soon.) Visual remembrances.
Like this one.
I see (in my mind) my daughter Erin. She’s about seven years young, and she’s crafting play hospitals out of shoeboxes.
In the boxes are barely alive lizards.
Found lizards that anyone else might whisper a “poor thing” to and pass by.
Wounded lizards (we had two cats) lie still with matchbook size blankets made from her pillowcase. (Yes, she cut it up. And no, she didn’t ask permission.) And believe me, she can work a miracle with an eye dropper, a little water, and tireless care.
But that’s not the memory I’m pondering.
I’m thinking about her attraction to animals and they to her and that time in the backyard.
She’s sitting on the grass. I’m seated in a chair on the screened porch.
Suddenly I notice swift movement at a spot in the wedelia near her. (The perimeter of our yard is wildly natural—pampass grass, ground cover, and sea grape trees loaded with tasty fruit. It’s a water setting: a small island of mangroves is in the distance and then Sarasota Bay.)
It’s Fred Anderson.
Fred Anderson is our pet snake. Well, he’s not really a pet, unless you call every wild animal you see scurry or fly by your house a pet. He’s an adult southern black racer snake. Friendly, non-venomous. About three feet. The first time I saw him, I told the kids we had a black snake in the yard. Michael (Erin’s brother) said, “Yeah, I know. His name is Fred Anderson.”
He had a name.
Well, Erin is sitting still, and to this day, I still shake my head in wonder, seeing what happened. Fred Anderson slithered up to and on her. He explored her chest, back, neck and arm. But here’s the incredible part. She calmly embraced his visit. It’s as if she and Fred Anderson were pals. After a few minutes (not seconds), he left.
Afterward Erin got up, and ran off to play.
I think visits from nature are sacred. (I’ve had a few myself.) Indigenous people say visits from snakes express transformation and healing. If a snake visits, your creative forces are awakening.
Some of my favorite stories are those Erin tells from her surfing experiences. Visits of loggerhead turtles, porpoise, schools of fish. Even shark.
Here’s what I think. Animals know innate reverence. Fred Anderson knew Erin was a safe “friend” in the sense that her energy was calm. She gave off a safe vibe.
How about you? Have you ever had a sacred visit from the wild? If you'd care to share, I'd love to hear.