Time Management Lesson From a Rattlesnake
I always wondered if I would recognize the sound. I dreaded hearing it, but I was even more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t hear it. But that sound? It’s unmistakable. And when I finally did hear it that day last summer, I knew it immediately: that distinct buzzing that made my heart rush to my throat and drenched my underarms with the sweat of fear.
Before that day, I used to multitask–checking email or returning calls or texts–while my dogs, Dash and Moxie, ran unleashed on the trail. Exercising the dogs and taking care of business = “time management.” At least that’s what I called it.
But I had unintentionally left my phone at home that afternoon, and didn’t realize it until we parked at the entrance to the trail. I set off on our walk feeling uneasy, with a nagging sense of anxiety at being disconnected for what would be at least an hour. Too long to spend in nature in a world of unnatural non-stop connectivity.
Yet it was summer in spectacular Boulder, Colorado–a destination for thousands of visitors each year who come to appreciate the natural and cultural resources of the area–so I forced myself to play tourist and take in the wildflowers, the chirping prairie dogs, the sweeping backdrop of the foothills, dusty under the haze of smoke from wildfires two states away.
Within five minutes, embedding into the beauty and wildness of it, losing any sense of a jaded Boulderite, I surrendered to taking in all that the Boulder mountain parks were. After 30 minutes, we turned around to head back, more than a mile from the trailhead. With Dash at my heel and Moxie only 10 feet ahead, I had fallen into the cadence of our foot- and pawsteps on the dirt path when Moxie made a sudden stop: ears forward, tail horizontal.
I heard it.
I saw it.
I called her.
It all happened just like it should. The rattler, coiled on the edge of the dirt–mostly hidden in the tall grass–did its job by warning Moxie, I did mine by being attentive and aware, and Moxie did hers by coming to me when I called her.
I leashed both dogs, hands greased with sweat and my heart pounding at least as loudly as the rattlesnake’s warning, imagining the alternative outcomes. Had I been updating my Facebook status or returning a text to my mother in that critical moment–had the snake’s telltale warning been lost to my internet oblivion–the story could have had a wildly different ending. I was profoundly thankful that I had seen and heard what I did, when I did.
I mouthed a silent “thank you” in the direction of the still-coiled-but-now-silent snake as we found our way to safety via an extra-long detour through the grass on the other side of the trail.
The “cost” of being disconnected for that short hour and finally seeing what I might have missed…
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