Let me preface this post with a restated confession: I am not exactly a fan of snakes.

But they, like all of nature, have lessons to teach, if one is willing to learn.

I hope to always be teachable, so…

Early in the summer I found a snakeskin in my garage. Just a little one, but still.

A few weeks later, I found another.

This morning, I found a couple more.


Snakes seem to have been vacationing in my garage. Let us think on that momentarily versus thinking that they’ve taken up permanent residence there.

Here is why I say this: The skins, I’m pretty sure, belong to smooth earth snakes. I’ve seen a couple over the past year or so, which is saying something: These are nonvenomous, shy, fossorial snakes that don’t like to be seen. The first one I saw was dead, lying across my sidewalk after a rainstorm. Pale gray body. I thought it was a worm until I saw the tell-tale scales. The second one was stretched out in my flowerbed mulch, black tongue flickering in and out “smelling” the air, trying to determine what I was. That’s it for my lifetime earth snake sightings. Two. They are uncommon, tiny creatures…just the size of these silvery skins left behind.

So they live in the ground around my home, harmless little things, going about their business of eating earthworms and itty bitty snails or whatever.

And coming into my garage to moult.

Which is nevertheless discomfiting. For me, anyway. Not for the bashful snakes.

I don’t especially want one to come all the way inside and hang out or anything.

But they do have me thinking (among many things) about shedding one’s skin. Metaphorically, that is. As in, what sorts of things I wrap around myself and cling to when I could be letting go and growing. Mindsets, habits, beliefs, assumptions, what have you. Which things actually nourish me, and which actually constrain me? Which are beneficial, and which are harmful? What do I need to shed and leave behind, to better move forward?

I suppose this thinking occurs because summer is waning. I return to work next week not knowing what the year ahead will look like, other than back to masked here in my district. I think about the possibility of a full return to virtual learning. It is more than a great many teachers can take. Yet… we got through last year. The children got through. There were good things in spite of the trials; there were surprises. Many from the children and most concerning ourselves. School of 2020-2021 took a toll on everyone. We had to shed quite a bit of familiarity and comfort to get things done. But we did it. We grew.

I don’t wish for a repeat any more than I wish for snakes to be summering in my garage. I cannot ignore the timing of COVID rearing its more-venomous-than-ever head again when we thought it was on its way out, just when we are on our way back into the schools. I now have a granddaughter starting kindergarten. Her little sister will be born this fall. There’s always a lot at stake when it comes to children—in the words of Herbert Hoover (ever how unpopular a president he was in his day): “Children are our most valuable resource.” There’s nothing more precious. They represent our tomorrows; they are the culmination of our yesterdays. We have to shed the fear of failing them. Not assuming the worst, or that “we can’t,” but doing daily, as only that given day dictates, what must be done for their care and nurture as well as for our own. We have to be… well, “as wise as serpents.” When it comes to plans, we have to hold on loosely, ever how painfully contrary it is to our nature.

This summer I had plans for household repairs and updates. That was before the dryer quit working. Followed by the air conditioning during the hottest week of the year (of course). Followed by turning on the water one morning and nothing coming out of the faucet; the pump died.

I did repairs, all right. Just not the ones I planned.

But I got through. I now have a new dryer and water pump. The AC unit didn’t have to be replaced, thank heaven. All is working well. Throughout this whole process I thought about adapting. I dried clothes out in the hot sun. I remembered how my grandparents never owned a dryer. I thought about that one window air conditioner they had (late in their lives) against a sweltering Carolina summer and no AC at all in the old Ford Galaxy 500; I once left a stack of 45 RPM records on its back deck under the windshield. They melted. They warped and ruffled like clam shells. I’ve never had to pump or draw water in my life, but I had plenty of bottled water and didn’t have to miss my morning coffee while waiting on the new pump.

So I attempt to bring the lesson of shed snakeskin to a point here: In the discomfort is growth. Newness lies ahead; it approaches incrementally as we scratch away at the constraints and setbacks of now. Endurance is possible. We certainly know this. Sometimes the thing that needs shedding most is our perspective…

Meanwhile, I go back to cleaning out my garage, another thing I hadn’t planned to do right now, but the snakeskins sparked it. Time to purge what needs to go and put up a shelf to keep everything else off the floor. I am working on it. Hot, tiresome, dusty work, but I can see my progress.

And it feels good.

Thanks to the snakes.


thanks also to the Two Writing Teachers community, where writing our way through is a way of life…courage and strength to all.

13 thoughts on “Shedding

  1. I had never given it much thought, but your metaphor is so appropriate. How often we hold on to things we need to let go of. It is not just material things but also feelings. Anger at someone we argued with years ago. Annoyance at someone who cut in front of us to take a parking spot we had our eye on. Time to shed these feelings and move on.

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  2. Perfect metaphor for this time of year! I wonder about educators returning to school craving “normal” and going back to “what we’ve always done” when this is such an opportunity to reflect, grow, and do different/better.

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  3. You write with such wisdom, heart and voice. I’ve come to believe that it is our perspective that often needs to be shed- Love your metaphor but also hope those snakes find another venue in which to molt.

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  4. Fran, as snakes shed their skin, we, too, need to discard the old and take a good look at what we want to look like and be in the future. I am always astounded by your amazing leads into the main portion of your writing. “Time to purge what needs to go…” As I sort my unopened boxes from the move, I need to let go of some items that no longer are needed in my new life. Thanks for reminding me to do so.

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  5. I love how you build a slice of life fro what is happening, yet extend it into metaphor and new meaning. I want to chew on this one a while. I hate snakes, too, but your lesson on shedding in order to grow is a good one.

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  6. Good words to read in the second week of school… with Covid again casting a dark shadow… we are all wearing masks, pre-K through 12, but at our school, we already have a positive case and several others on quarantine. Shedding negative thoughts and trying to grow through it all… we need to think about that.

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  7. A direct connection here, as those earth snakes DO come into our house from time to time, apparently through the vents placed in the wall for termite control. Depending on how much time I have to devote to the situation, they either get scooped up in a wad of toilet paper and flushed (sorry, Mother Nature) or captured in a cup and released outside…I like your metaphor for change and new perspective as we enter the new school year. I keep looking at the obstacles I face (there is one particularly big one right now, aside from but directly connected to the pandemic) instead of thinking of solutions. I need to shed that skin of anxiety and dread with the work of just getting it done. Thanks for the push this morning!

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  8. Fran, you are a kindred spirit to always see life in metaphor. Yes, there’s so much that we do need to shed and leave behind to move forward (and, perhaps, there’s something in it if we think about those that find curiosity in what gets left behind, like you in the garage). And I also find it interesting that your internal repair work got sidetracked by the AC, the pump, the laundry machine. Somehow, I think, that’s another bit of learning – the things that we PLAN to work on aren’t necessarily the things life throws our way. Sometimes the world demands we do different things with it. In the meantime, here’s giving you all the mojo and none of the fears as you step forward into this coming year!

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  9. Fran, what a message here. Preach it, sister. I love how you are open to learning from everything coming your way. The hope and integrity of this post are inspiring me.

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  10. I shuddered when I opened your post and saw the snakeskin pics. But leave it to you, to bring us around to, “What can we learn?” I love hearing about your summer. We’re longing for rain here in the Pacific NW. I never thought I would utter those words, but it’s been such a dry summer and I’ve tired of seeing burnt lawns. I grew up with that one window room air conditioner, and we loved to spend summer afternoons reading in front of it! I like a task that allows you to see your progress. Currently working on the piles on my desk! Blessings as you return to school and face whatever comes your way, “doing daily, as only that given day dictates, what must be done for their care and nurture as well as for our own.” As for me, I’m hanging onto these three words: “Endurance is possible.”

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