Turtles

Big sigh…

Nothing major has happened. Just relaxing.

I had an experience with turtles as a child – that I’d like to write about. Not all of it just yet. Just working through some thoughts.

I’ve an attraction to turtles. They’re amazing creatures. As a child – so many turtles in stories, turtle toys, turtle bath soap, little pet turtles. In nature – they are so difficult to get close to. 50 feet away – plop! Off the log and into the pond. Come on man! I just want to see you up close! I guess that adds to their mystique for me. And I’m primarily writing about land turtles. I only encountered sea turtles later in life in Hawaii. That was almost as life changing as swimming with the Manta Rays (Kona Coast) – or seeing the PupFish in Devils Hole (Death Valley/ Nevada).

The experience I want to write more about happened at a little lake in North Dakota (Cold Water lake). My sister and I were between 10 and 13 (those details escape me right now) – spending time with my Mom’s parents for the summer – while my parent’s marriage was being blown apart. My grandfather – an awesome grandpa – took us and our newly acquired inflatable boats to Cold Water for the day. There was some fishing involved – but inevitably, I grew restless and wanted to explore the shore. Nothing thrilled me more than finding tadpoles, frogs, crawdads, snakes and any other creature that lived in the grass and shallow, warm water near the shore. At one point, I decided to enter the watery realm with the creatures of my desire – in my raft – with the requisite life jacket. I was paddling for 30 minutes – trying to get close to the turtles in the lake – sunning themselves on partially submerged logs – to no avail. Thwarted time and again – by the sharp eyes of the turtles and their “shy” nature. Given my approach in this most unnatural contraption – paddles flailing away – it was no surprise. So I decided to shed my artificial flotation (raft and life jacket) and tried to meet these creatures in the most natural state I could achieve without also embarrassing myself (my sister was floating nearby for crying out loud). I pushed my way into 10 foot deep water and tread water in the most zen way possible. Very calm – expending the least energy possible – trying to attain a turtle state of mind – doing my best to become a log. After many minutes of breathing softly, observing the water’s surface from my new vantage point – I noticed something rising from 5 feet down – barely visible – but then resolving into a turtle. A turtle! A curious old soul coming to pay me a visit. It broke the surface and floated just out of reach – not yet realizing this log was oh so much more. I was giddy – but did my best to contain my excitement. We floated there for many minutes. I made no moves to get closer. I knew this was a once in a lifetime closeness. For once – it was enough.

That was one of the best summers of my life. I had little concept of what was happening back home – or the life my sister and I would step into upon our return home.

That turtle rising from the depths and just spending time near me – two of earth’s creatures – sharing some space – without threat – without need of anything but existing together – was profound for me. The event also marked a major turning point for me in the human world. I discovered girls that summer too.

The turtle was a harbinger of sorts. I hope to work through this story and the details in a longer work one of these days. Just wanted to crank out some of the pieces today.

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Filed under Childhood, Nature, Writing

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