"Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive."
-- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
It's that time of year when social media becomes inundated with hatchling/neonate photos. Reptile keepers of every ilk and species post pictures of beautiful babies and share their excitement over the next steps in their journey. I love seeing this enthusiasm and enjoyment of new life, of drawing closer to an end goal or future vision. I commend these keepers who geek out over the newness of freshly-born reptiles, no matter what kind, and pray this enthusiasm always remains present in our hobby. So many keepers extoll this moment as "their favorite part" of breeding reptiles, and with the yearly onslaught of photos, it got this ol' gal a-thinking...
You can't scroll through the Internet these days without being exhorted to acknowledge "the journey" that is life. We're advised to enjoy it, and recognize that "...a thousand miles begins with a single step." As an online meme and cliche, the sentiment is almost mind-numbingly trite, but boiled down to its essence it means one thing: be present. Without the awareness that presence requires, it's easy to become so focused on intended outcomes that we lose sight of the plans and processes that lead to them. With presence and awareness (and introspection, and humility), the plans, processes, and moments are savored, appreciated, understood, and tucked away as lessons and fuel for future journeys.
"So, Kara," you ask, "Why all this quasi-philosophical rambling, and what does it have to do with snakes?" Well, dear reader, I'll tell you. As this ol' gal was a-thinking about hatchling seasons and excited keepers, I was once again compelled to confront the fact that the first moments of pipping and hatching and piles of gooey baby snakes are actually not my favorite parts of breeding reptiles. They're very high on the list (we're talking Willie-Nelson-concert high), but they still fall behind the splendor of mature blood pythons in their prime, and ultimately, females on clutches.
There is nothing in the rhythm and routine of captive propagation that tops the sight of a beautiful female python coiled around a clutch of perfect, pristine eggs. It's an elemental, almost sacred moment: the elongate, chiseled head resting protectively atop the clutch with an air of maternal wisdom. The quiet puffing of breath and curious tongue flicks as she shifts her coils and pushes against my hand, protesting my intrusion. My humble awareness that aside from providing the correct environmental conditions, she needs no assistance from me throughout this entire process and could quite capably hatch the eggs on her own. My whispered promise as the clutch is gathered and safely tucked into the most stable incubator I could provide, "You've done your part, now I'll do mine."
Yes, I'm waxing poetic and anthropomorphizing a bit, but this event deserves no less than the intensity of emotion it elicits. Perfect clutches aren't guaranteed, and that fact makes me tremendously appreciative when they do arrive. These females put forth a fantastic reproductive effort and the results thereof will shape the future of generations to come at TBC. I know what's in these eggs will eventually be mindblowing...right now I'm thankful that they've gone from possible to probable. In these moments I am keenly present, acutely aware, and exceedingly grateful for this step along the way.