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The snake first appeared to me in a dream—a deep, blue, circling mass, churning slowly around itself like an entrapped current of water. Around, around, around...

I have never been drawn to snakes. Unlike many other creatures, scientific studies have shown that they do not feel empathy, and I, with my emotions and concerns guiding most everything I do, am very much the opposite.

But, the snake kept appearing to me. I saw it over and over in my dreams; I saw it in the shadow of a hole when I walked by the river; saw it imprinted as that same swimming circle on the chest of a man; heard it emerge from the voice of an old woman who spoke of the Avanyu, the Tewa snake deity who transcends the physical and spiritual worlds through water. The snake kept appearing—so I listened.

I started painting it.

Unable to feel empathy, the snake is a symbol of indifference. It is a symbol of the arbitrary, of objective-ness, of doing things simply because they are part of the natural order. The snake judges its life based on its instinctive knowledge of death, hunting and breathing and sleeping and spawning simply because it must in order to exist. It is not careless towards others out of spite or disdain. It does not hate; it does not love; it simply does what it needs to in order to live.

This both frightened and intrigued me. In my dreams, the snake kept coming closer, but I did not move away. I let it come.

I kept painting.

One morning, I went for a walk by an arroyo, and as I neared a bridge, I almost stepped on a snake at the edge of the path. Instinctively, I jumped away. But the snake did not move. I inched myself closer only to see that it was dead. No visible wounds, just lying there limply, baking in the desert heat. The arroyo was dry.

A snake is something perhaps to be feared, not out of spite or hatred, but out of instinct. Simply because it may pose a threat. I know many people who hate snakes for this reason. It is all too easy to become tangled in our emotions, so much so that we see nothing beyond them. Everything becomes, personal, painful, internal. And while emotion is a powerful guide, allowing us to understand, feel, and care, we must be conscious of its guidance. Sometimes, we must step outside of the realm of our feelings in order to see things objectively, as well.
There is a special kind of clarity in being privy to both perspectives—it is a transcendence between worlds—the world inside of us and the world outside of us.

The day after I saw the dead snake, I finished the painting. I walked back to the path by the bridge, but its body was gone, the arroyo flowing again.


The Arbiter
Mixed media on basswood

Anima Collection


Satin varnish

Cradled basswood panel is ready to hang 


Artist is not liable for any damages that may occur during shipping.

The Arbiter

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