20th Anniversary Issue It’s early evening, already well past dark in Alaska, only a few nights before the winter solstice. I huddle beneath the down comforter on my bed. Although the bedroom door is closed, a thin beam of golden light slips inward from the hallway. I hear my husband and daughter laugh as they arrange holiday decorations in the living room. A pinched nerve in my lower back causes intermittent bursts of pain to surge up my spine. The discomfort is so intense that my stomach aches from bracing against the waves of nausea. Though the cycle is sporadic, it has been going on for hours and I’m exhausted. In between spasms, I seek refuge in a dreamy state of consciousness. For several minutes at a time all is calm and quiet, and in one particularly lucid moment I ask my body to reveal the core source of this physical discord. What do I need to know? I plead. What can I do? I am not truly expecting an answer, and yet it comes — lightning fast — in the form of a gigantic snake. So huge is the serpent that for a moment all I can see is its face, the rest of its body eclipsed by the immensity of its head. Its pupils are vertical slits, dark doorways surrounded by flecks of gold. Its body — I can see more of it now— is thick and glossy, the same ruddy orange color as its head and neck. A row of slim, downward-pointing triangles runs along the sides of its long body, each triangle ending in...
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