Slow Love

Note: It must be summer in Georgia. I performed my first turtle rescue of the season last week, lifting a large specimen off the road after two vehicles dodged him. In honor of adventurous turtles and acts of kindness, let’s revisit this post from July of 2017.

The first Georgia turtle I rescued was downright hostile. He was one of those land-water hybrid models with a narrow, pointed snorkel nose, and he windmilled his long legs around, attempting to claw me as I delivered him to the other side of the street. You’re welcome.

Months later on a busy road, I spotted a dark object moving in my lane. I had just enough time to dodge the medium-sized box turtle, not enough to stop. Paused at a red light on an incline, I watched in my rearview mirror as a few cars passed over him. I knew this was a bad idea, my watching, and he realized crossing the road was also a bad idea and reversed direction as a van swerved into the turn lane. The driver got out and held one hand up as a stop gesture, the other pointing down at the turtle, now doing an about-face to scuttle away from her and back into traffic. Both lanes stopped, and no one honked as she picked him up, unharmed, and carried him to safety.

I love turtles. I had a pet turtle as a kid, but that’s not the reason moving to Georgia revived my affection for them. I think turtles symbolize three messages.

1. Relax.

Trying to force something to happen is like a hobby for me, and maybe this is human nature at work. Once we invest time and effort in something, we want to “win,” and such focused attention can make us overlook opportunities which are easier and better for us. (This tendency is rocket fuel for auctions on Ebay.) Patience seems lazy compared to struggle, which at least keeps us busy, but struggle seldom works. When it does, what we get or achieve may not be what we truly need or even want. Turtles invite me to slow down, breathe and ask my heart a few personal questions.

2. Release.

What is it time to let go of? Turtles are the ultimate nomads, carrying their houses wherever they go. I didn’t bring my old house into my new zip code, but old coping mechanisms, opinions and habits can be lifetime companions. In an act of self-kindness, I can jettison and replace any outdated beliefs, plans and behaviors that no longer serve me, when I’m ready.

3. Return.

A rainstorm washed a turtle into my backyard last week. The wooden fence blocked her exit until I slipped her under one of the few gaps. The next day, a much smaller turtle appeared. He munched around near my porch before taking off into the tall grasses, his tiny head periscoped toward the sky, marching toward the trees that probably surrounded his habitat. This sweet, brave little turtle was headed in the wrong direction, able to see the treetops but not the fence. I airlifted him to the same gap I’d visited the previous day, pointed him toward the trees and nudged him forward to freedom.

Sorrow visits everyone, and unexpected life events can leave us feeling lost and alone. The next time a storm seems to knock me off my own unique path, I want to remember whatever makes me want to hide may be the hand of Grace showing me a faster way home.

A note about the photograph, snapped by a friend: This turtle was waiting for me when I hiked near Blankets Creek earlier this year.