Apologies to a tiny turtle

On my walk this morning, I came upon a tiny turtle,  brown and about the size of a silver dollar.  At first I thought it was just a dry leaf, and I nearly stepped on it.  But I paused to admire its beauty and realized it was a living creature – an eastern snapping turtle, I think.     

What was I to do? She was headed for the far side of the road, away from the boulders that line the shore, toward the lush, green grass… countless steps away! 

I feared that by the time her legs carried her halfway across the tarmac, she’d be brunch for an observant osprey or hungry seagull.  And, if the birds didn’t gobble her down or feed her to their fledglings, a speeding car or tuned-out runner would squash her for sure.

So, I made one of those split-second decisions… which I now question.  Grabbing a tissue from my pocket I lifted tiny turtle into the soft, white folds, and whisked her across the danger zone and onto the grass.

There she was when last I saw her… wondering what the heck had happened, remaining perfectly still, trying to figure out what to do next.  For, as Emerson drily observed, “All the thoughts of a turtle are turtle.”

And I, being human, thinking my human thoughts, stumbled on,  succumbing to wavelets of guilt with each step: Was my effort to help really a selfish gesture that left tiny turtle in more danger than she’d faced on her own?  What led me to think I knew best what should happen next in her life? 

Obviously, her dusty-mahogany shell wouldn’t blend in with the blades of emerald grass. Perhaps she was even more likely to be spotted by a predator.  Once she caught her breath, did  she instinctively pivot and begin the long and dangerous journey back to the boulders on the far side of the road? 

Hadn’t I so often read those cautionary tales? – Don’t interfere with the lives of man or beast; don’t assume you know what is best for others – and that includes tiny turtles, missy.

I’m reminded of lines by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.  This excerpt is from “Turtle” – her poem after a similar encounter:

But, listen,
what’s important?
Nothing’s important

except that the great and cruel mystery of the world,
of which this [the turtle] is a part,
not to be denied…

And so it goes… Nature’s lessons are hard on us all.  I’ve been set the task to relearn humility and patience, – perhaps at the expense of my fellow traveler, tiny turtle.


About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
This entry was posted in Adventures, Life Lessons, Nature. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Apologies to a tiny turtle

  1. debrabook says:

    What a conundrum, one which I’ve experienced several times. Moving them out of harms way while crossing the road makes me feel as though they’re safe. But are they if they don’t know where they came from or went to? No matter, they’re better off with your compassion than becoming turtle soup on the road!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jan, you did what you thought was the best thing to do at that moment and for that you are to be applauded for even considering the tiny turtle.

  3. Carolyn Egeli says:

    Oh, Jan….I do know exactly what you went through this morning. But hopefully, intention counts for something good. And your intentions are always good. Bless you, my dear friend.

  4. Barbara says:

    …and the tarmac for certain was not in her best interest. Each moment the universe offers unlimited choices, unlimited potential realities. Every action we make closes the door to all the untaken futures, leaving the single one we live into. You merely created one with the turtle– for each of you. Lovely story to start my day! Thank you.

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