As I returned home this afternoon, I was shocked to see a large turtle creeping along the road in front of my house. I live in a neighborhood called “The Lakes”. We actually have a large lake near my house. There are mornings I must slow down or stop to let the ducks geese cross the road, but never a turtle.
I stopped my car to block other cars from hitting the turtle. I was so afraid someone would come racing around the corner destroying this creature. I grabbed my phone, called my husband, and demanded he come outside immediately. My “inner child” took over. She was determined.
“Look. The turtle came out of the lake. We have to get her out of the road. Why would she leave? Can we pick her up? Will she bite?” I never took a breath between questions. My husband just waited until he could interrupt.
“I don’t know why it is in the road and yes, it will bite”
“Well, you have to do something. We can’t leave her here. Should I pick her up and move her into the yard?” The speed and intensity of my tirade increased.
My husband found a large plastic tub, picked her up and placed her inside. We put her in the back of my car and drove around the corner to the lake. We turned her loose and as she slid back into the lake I felt a sense of relief. I returned to my grownup being and thanked my husband for helping. I wondered why the turtle had left the safety of the lake to travel on such treacherous ground. I wondered why I cared so much.
I grew up in a small neighborhood on the Stono River. We were actually just one big circle. There were homes on the river and homes on the canals leading to the river. My home was one bend of the canal. We lived in the “country.” That meant we were six miles from the nearest grocery store or gas station, had PO Boxes for addresses, and were surrounded by not only water, but also trees and woods.
Carol and I swam off my dock all spring and summer. We also chased fiddler crabs in the pluff mud at low tide, nursed baby rabbits and birds that had been abandoned or injured, and outran snakes from time to time. We built forts out of moss and huddled inside with our dogs while pretending we were in another time and place. There was a huge oak tree between my house and Carols. We climbed the branches and nestled into our favorite spots. We talked about real life, our dreams, and all the things young girls share. At other times, we sat in silence feeling safe in the arms of that tree and with each other.
I often think back to those days. We had such great plans for our lives. We had magnificent dreams. We would do things differently than our parents. We would get married, have children, and raise them together. Of course we would always live near each other. Little girls in our era weren’t taught to have many dreams outside of one husband, 2.4 children, and house with a picket fence. But, we did often dream bigger dreams. We just didn’t tell anyone else about them.
I wonder if the turtle was trying to escape her life or searching for a better life. I wonder if she was scared. I wonder if she was sick leaving her home to find a place to die peacefully. I wonder if she had any idea where she was going. I wonder if she is resentful she was taken back. I wonder if she will leave again.
Perhaps I saw something of my life and myself in this turtle. I left the place I grew up as soon as I could. I set out on my own journey. I traveled many dangerous and treacherous roads along the way. It seemed there was always someone to nudge me off the road, point me in another direction, or at times, to pick me up and take me to safety. At times, I was grateful but at other times, I resented the interference.
As my life journey continues, I plan to take roads others will question. I am sure some will try to change my course. At times, there may be roadblocks and I will be forced to choose another direction. Some may seem frightening and long. I am not even sure I know where I am going. But, I know I am not alone. It seems that God loves me where I am and that He has been and will be with me wherever I go. God taught me a lesson today with a turtle in the road. Cool—huh?