The Turtles Are On The Move
The turtles are on the move. I smile when I write that and don’t know why. A few days ago a group of 78 diamond backed terrapins decided to cross a runway at JFK en mass, delaying flights for an hour and a half. At first when I saw this article I was disturbed, turtles are not pack animals that travel in herds, turtles are solitary creatures. I have come to the conclusion that the call to gather in a group and interrupt traffic at the airport had to have come from a call higher than their own.
Of course, this story fascinates me on many levels, my affinity with turtles has been with me since I was a child. I first discovered box turtles and their ability to disappear into their shells amazed me and I used to wonder if a whole other universe existed inside of a turtle’s shell. Later, I discovered sliders and watching them move through the water had the ability to ease and lift my spirit. Tortoises came next, and I discovered the ancient creatures have a gentle wisdom about them that perhaps only comes in watching generations of humans come and go.
I’ve always compared myself to a turtle, although I’m not sure why, maybe, simply, because I seek to see what is hiding inside that turtle shell, that other universe. And it seems, not only am I drawn to turtles, turtles are drawn to me. Recently, on our anniversary and two days shy of what would have been my son’s 25th birthday, had he not died at 18, a box turtle settled down outside of the backdoor. He sat for half an hour, as though waiting for something and when I stepped outside, he walked over my foot. I picked him up and he did not retreat into his shell, but only watched me studiously, without fear.
I decided that God had sent me a message or a gift or both and took the turtle inside the house to spend the day. The turtle investigated the kitchen, had no fear of the other animals and sunned himself on the floor of the mud room. I left him to his own devices, checking on him often and every time I stepped into the room, his eyes would follow me. By the afternoon, the turtle’s tame behavior and lack of fear had me intrigued, I wondered if he was truly wild, as he seemed so comfortable with my presence.
The turtle’s behavior felt inspired to me, so I picked him up and sat in a chair with him on my lap. He sat, legs out confidently and stared into my eyes. I asked him why he had come, what he meant for me to see and his gaze remained locked on mine. I tried to understand, perhaps even psychically, what the turtle had come to relay and then it came to me, the turtles are dying, someone has to speak out.
Years ago, I had an unusual experience where I was drawn to the bible, I flipped it open and my eyes fell on these words … “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:12) I knew in that instant that for some reason those words were important, perhaps only to me and I realized the day the turtle came to visit, I had not been doing my job well enough.
When I refer to turtles, I am not only referring to magnificent creatures, I am also referring to folks, turtle folks. We all know who we are, the narrow path folks, the solitary folks, the universe holders, and perhaps even, the keepers of time. And as I understood it that day, sitting with a turtle in my lap, both the creatures and the folks are under threat. In the wild, turtles only have two natural predators, humans and alligators, and I would say, much of the same holds true for turtle folks.
The turtles are on the move, so for us turtles with a voice, it’s time to speak out.