Turtle Messengers

It was Friday, nearing sundown and the motley crew gathered to celebrate the union of my nephew and his partner was engaged in the ritual of Kabbalat Shabbat. This meant they were praying and reciting and swaying and singing. For the first half, I sat among them, siddur (prayer book) in hand, impotent in my goyish palm, respectfully, but culturally, apart.

For the second half, I stood in the back. I was not alone; not everyone was participating. After what felt like a decent enough interval of time, I removed myself completely and heeded the call of the nearby lake. We were at a Jewish camp in the Adirondacks, empty except for us, some Orthodox families, and the staff (who all, curiously, come from the UK). The accommodations are nicely appointed, but not luxurious. The lake is small, real, and offers itself simply.

I walked onto a wooden dock, three-sided. With the earthen bank as a fourth side, it made a square pool full of lily pads


and lake clover


and mucky stuff in the brown water. Pristine it was not. But it was water, it was sunset, it was beautiful.

On the dock, I slowed down. My shoulders were no longer up around my ears. My chest felt more spacious. I sunk gratefully into being here, mind and body.

Since the water was brackish, I expected to find frogs. So I slowed down even more. And I waited.

I knew they were hiding. In plain sight. That my eyes must adjust from months of looking at computer screens, the highway ahead of my steering wheel, even the peculiar motion of humans. My acclimation to those things of the world do not serve me well in this moment.

I stopped.

I beheld.

I saw the frog’s head just as it submerged (how did it know to disappear just as my eyes found it?). I felt a rush of joy. Just the right amount of tease to let me know that I was on the right track. I leaned on the grey-worn splintery rail – indicating not to the hide-and-seek frog, but to my monkey mind that I was going to be even more still.

I watched the evidence of underwater life. I was delighted. But also just the tiny bit confused: the rising air bubbles, the shifting lilly pads, the lack of splash lead me to wonder. Then I saw two beady eyes. My momentary confusion was assuaged. I waited some more. I watched some more.

This is what I saw: IMG_20150621_183132

And this


And these


A door to my heart I did not know was closed flung itself open when I realized that I was in the company of scores of turtles. Little ones floating with intention more than swimming, their little legs making due, but not gracefully. And BIG ONES – probably Snapping Turtles – that would give the Jabberwock a run for its money

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!


(I resolved then and there not to swim in the lake the next day. I cherish my toes.)

Who knew? Who knew there were turtles in the lake? That my eyes would adjust enough, like when you first enter a dark room, nothing visible, but still there, and eventually, they reveal themselves? That I would slow down enough to appreciate them?

(My heart hiccups and wonders what I have been missing this past busy year, my pace too fast for my eyes – my heart – to adjust, to see what was in front of me.)

There have been numerous signs that have shown up these past few weeks, signs that say it’s time to slow down, to leave some space in each day. Some of the message-bearers have not been pleasant. Some have been, in fact, painful. Others have contained enough grace and an obvious quality of dodging-the-bullet that I would be a fool not to pay attention.

Some have come in this shape:


Like I said: I would be a fool not to pay attention.

2 thoughts on “Turtle Messengers

  1. So refreshing & I’m there…

    LOVE your line “A door my heart I didn’t know was closed…”

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