Tag Archives: Morro Bay

Snakes on My brain

Snakes copy

By: Tina Davidson

Say hello to my friend the ball python.  I met him at the reptile show at the Winter Bird Festival in Morro Bay, CA, last month.

Now you may be thinking, “Did she just write reptile show at the bird festival?”

You betcha.

Morro Bay is a bird sanctuary, a place that takes birding seriously, so it never makes much sense that every year reptiles are given a little spotlight during the Winter Bird Festival.  Don’t they know these slithery showmen, if given the opportunity, would consume the honoree’s and their offspring?

Surprisingly, if my group of friends and I hadn’t gotten in line early enough we would have missed out on the free tickets to the reptile show– only 2 sessions were offered with 25 participants allowed in at a time to pet and handle the snakes, bearded dragons, and blue-tongued skink.

bearded dragon blue tongued skink cuddly tiny snake

During my first year in attendance at the show (two years ago), I hid behind my camera– using it as an excuse that you can’t take pictures and hold snakes at the same time, but in fact I was really creeped out.

That memorable year I witnessed a snake pooping on an unsuspecting girl. This scene cured me from ever allowing my children to keep snakes as pets. That and the fact that snakes live a long time convinces me to say no. I don’t envision my future as an empty nester with only my children’s snakes to keep me company by the fire.

The girl I mentioned earlier, who endured the snake poop, was a champion and handled it better than I ever would have– had it been me, much more screaming and mayhem would have occurred! If a snake were expelling its waste on me, my first instinct (two years ago) would have been to launch that sucker.

This instinct, of wanting to fling a defecating snake, might once have been attributed to the “reptilian” brain.  Paul MacLean developed a theory in the 1960s that the brain had three levels and the reptilian part was the bottom most basic level in regards to survival and instinct.  MacLean’s triune brain theory has been replaced but you may still hear mention of the “reptilian” brain.

We now know much more about reptiles and turns out they are pretty smart (lizards can actually use their snout as tools according to one study). In fact, when scientists, Manuel Leal and Brian Powell at Duke University of North Carolina performed an experiment to test the wits between tits, a commonly studied bird, and Anolis Evermanni, aka anole lizards, their results suggested these lizards were just as smart as the birds.  So, I guess that makes reptiles an admirable addition to any bird festival.  What’s your take?

The Snake-away and Your Brain

This was my second year attending the show, but my first year to touch anything,  So, what changed? Why did I chill with the ball python for longer than just a photo opp?  I had reframed my attitude. I do not have herpetophobi, an extreme fear of reptiles, which would have been much harder to overcome.

What helped me the most was to have the proper behavior modeled. I had witnessed my friend, Janie, bravely handling creature after creature and nothing happened to her. We were warned this year that the snakes had breakfast before the show but I didn’t want to let that crap (literally) stop me– distorted fear was holding me back from embracing a tame snake.

Encountering a rattlesnake by surprise in the wild is a real threat to my survival… not a sweet pet ball python.

What distorted fears are preventing you from moving forward to try something new and enjoy life?

Would you be more likely to attend a bird festival or a reptile show? Perhaps you are dealing with orniphobia, or fear of birds, and not reptiles?

Orniphobia is one of the most debilitating phobias as birds are nearly impossible to avoid, says Lizzie Carver, who runs the bird phobia programme at Birdworld, Surrey. Employing a neurolinguistic process known as the “rewind technique”, Carver tries to re-establish a traumatic moment or episode in her client’s minds and then explore it in a safe space.

We all have things we need to overcome in life and s0me are more debilitating than others. It is never too late to change your brain thanks to neuroplasticity (nerd alert– neuroplasticity is one of my favorite words!)  Whether you apply the myelination technique I mentioned in my last post, or a nuerolinguistic process like the rewind technique mentioned above, there is help and support out there. I hope you find an option that works for you.

Did you know this Snake/Bird Fact?

King snakes are considered kings because they eat other snakes just like king cobras eat other cobras.

Check out a picture of a Cooper’s hawk— a bird who eats other birds. Sadly, it seems that there are cannibals in every bunch.

Special thanks to Dennis Sheridan and the Morro Bay Natural History Museum for allowing us to hang out with all the creepers and crawlers.

Source Citation  & Interesting Reads

“Cold-blooded cunning; Animal behaviour (I).” The Economist 16 July 2011: 83(US). General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
“Do something: Tackle your fear: Three therapists who specialise in animal phobias.” Guardian [London, England] 11 Oct. 2014: 6. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Getting Rid of Distorted Fears, Part 1: Why Kids Have Distorted Fears
Why we Fear Snakes

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Turn Your Brain’s Winter Blues into Yellows

Horse back riders near Sandspit beach at Montana De Oro State Park, CA

Horseback riders near Sandspit Beach at Montana De Oro State Park, CA


In the winter of 1998, I fell in love– with a place, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo (SLO).   Although I was impressed by the stellar academic programs and the incredible REC center, it was the sunshine that won me over.  The unpolluted blue sky and lush green hills beckoned me to stay longer than my scheduled two-day visit, but, sadly, I had to leave and return to my college classes amid the dirty melting snow and grey skies of northwest Indiana.  Luckily, I didn’t stay in Indiana for long.  I returned to lovely SLO County one year later, graduated from Cal Poly, and have remained for over fifteen years (minus a few weeks every year for vacations).

As a California native, never having lived farther than twenty minutes from a sunny west coast beach, it was a climate shock to my system when I experienced an Indiana winter.  I had never heard terms such as “lake effect snow”, had never driven a car on an icy and snowy road, and definitely had never made a fool of myself slipping on ice trying to get to class.  These were all “fun” firsts I experienced during my freshman winter at Valparaiso University (Valpo).  I ended up staying through two winters at Valpo. The first winter I did ok.

The second winter was tough.

When the sun stayed away longer, the skies grew greyer, and the winter cold set it, I found myself hibernating in my dorm room.  My friend, Laura, who lived a few doors down, knew not to disturb me, the grumpy girl, during my habitual nap time.  I did not have the energy to keep up with my frigid surroundings. To cope with the winter blues, I loaded up on my favorite greasy-cheesy comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese, gained weight, developed acne, and slept a ton. I felt like a mess and longed for the sunny skies over SLO.

Summer breaks in southern California were spent soaking up the sun in my parents’ backyard.  Once home, and after a few weeks of “light therapy” while enjoying the outdoors, I felt energized, ate better, and exercised.  Now when I look back, it makes me realize that Indiana’s winters brought on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder or recurrent winter depression).

I am so thankful to live in SLO County, where the weather is perfect for individuals with SAD.  Although dreary grey days exist, it is a land blessed with microclimates.  That means it might be 60 degrees and foggy at the coast in the summer, but a 20-minute drive to the north-east will take you to a brilliant 90 degrees in places like Atascadero or Templeton.  Or in January, due to a warm streak, it might be sunny and hover around 80 degrees right at the coast, with north county temperatures in the 60s.   John Lindsey, a SLO meteorologist, does a good job describing this phenomenon in his article, SLO County’s battling microclimates.

My brain rests assured that in the event of a foggy or grey day in SLO County, I can drive a few miles and experience a change in the weather, or stay at home, content, to gaze at my yellow walls.

Had I read Leatrice Eiseman’s book earlier, Colors for Your Every Mood, and been allowed to paint my Indiana dorm room walls yellow, my life may have turned out quite differently.  On page 46 of her book, she mentions that the color yellow may help with SAD syndrome:

It would be an excellent hue to use in alleviating the depression of the seasonal affective disorder (SAD syndrome). For those who literally suffer through the dismal days of winter, what could be better than painting the walls with sunshine where it doesn’t exist. It’s Prozac in a paint can (and a lot less expensive)!”

Eiseman, Leatrice. (1998) Colors for Your Every Mood. colorexpert.com

Sometimes I read books that are not specifically about the brain, but in the end (at least for me) I find a brain connection.  That’s what happened with Colors for Your Every Mood. I was expecting a book about decorating tips, which it does include, but it also informs the reader about many fascinating psychological insights in regards to color choice. I learned how colors have been used historically, the traditions associated with them, and other interesting tidbits like avoiding orange and red in the kitchen because they are thought to stimulate your appetite.  Check out her book if you want help bringing out certain moods in each room of your home, office, or school.

Also, if you’d like more references or an overview of SAD, I suggest checking out the article, Seasonal Affective Disorder, from the The British Journal of Psychiatry.  It cites another article with the full text available online, Pathophysiology of seasonal affective disorder: a review, that goes into more depth about light therapy and the role of neurotransmitters.

To all my friends that I met at Valpo: it was an experience I would not trade, and I cherish the spring and fall memories. I’m just biased about living in California during the winter months.

While I do enjoy yellow, my favorite color is actually blue–it is thought to evoke calmness and healing.  What’s your brain’s favorite color?

By: Tina Davidson

Morro Bay Rock, CA Historical Landmark No. 821

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Oysters on the Brain

I am not a fan of oysters.  Are you? They don’t look or taste appealing to me.

For those of you who aren’t fans but can get past their texture, they are a good source of zinc and iron.

I was trying to find a study that linked oysters to brain health.  Chris Kessler’s website uses a research-based functional medicine approach to health and in one of his articles he lists the benefits of oysters in their role in supporting healthy skin. (Zinc, found in oysters and other food, has anti-inflammatory effects and that has to be good for all parts of your body, not just your skin!). Here’s the link to Chris’s article– http://chriskresser.com/nutrition-for-healthy-skin-part-1

If you know of a recent study that directly links oysters with brain health, let me know.  I may have to cast aside my fears and try them for the sake of my brain!

Until then, you can enjoy an outdoor event on the Central Coast of California where oysters will abound. http://centralcoastoysterfestival.com/the-festival/

2nd Annual Central Coast Oyster  & Music Festival

Saturday, October 19, 2013

12- 8 p.m.

Morro Bay, California

Visit http://centralcoastoysterfestival.com/the-festival/ for more information.

My son’s Montessori school, part of the Family Partnership Charter School, will have a booth at the festival with hands-on activities in science and art. Form some new neural pathways with the Montessori method. Tell them Tina sent you!

Have fun and explore! Your brain will love you for it!!

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