Friday, May 8, 2015

                                      Turtle Mother

                        We Are Her Sisters and Brothers

     In the photo, I see such a stalwart gal, despite the presence of its paparazzo audience, depositing its progeny into the uncertain future.  A very handsome mother she is too.  The land is green there, I note, lush, thick with dewy grass.  Very fertile soil.  So different than the thin limey dust barely alive leaf, pebble, twig and insect shell detritus of far west Austin soil where I live over the limestone of the Balcones Fault.  I have to use a pickaxe to break in.

     Yet, the creek-lagoon turtles (species unknown to me, and to them) who ply confluent Lake Austin manage to dig their nest holes here over the Fault and lay their eggs with focused effort and only small paddles and short claws with the relentless ability of a little steam shovel.  I've seen them many times in various stages - near water's edge and deep into the woods across hard roads, and in transit either way - digging, scooping, mostly using back legs, sometimes their snouts (they fill back in the holes with front legs too), sitting at the slanted upward angle headfirst, their tailsides dipped into the dug hole.

     I'm not sure I've seen the actual laying (no thrust and retraction noticed), but they are indeed steadfastly resolved to stay in place and let me be the more transient one once she'd dug the thing and begun the laying, or the waiting to lay (as opposed to laying in wait).  Sometimes after seeing them and allowing them their privacy, I'll come back later to an empty open hole because, I think, she had been 'discovered' and felt that the spot would no longer be secure, or maybe the laying had been physically thwarted by the stress of having uninvited company.

     Most fascinating and known to me is that their nests are often dug right into the flat, rock-hard walking path above and along the lagoon (cypress-lined along with various stakeholding flowering 'weeds' [who you calling weed?], Virginia Creeper [unfortunately renamed American Ivy; what could be a better name for ivy than Creeper?], what's called cleavers, junipers mistakenly called cedar, irrepressible ligustrum and nandina, Mexican redbud, diminutive oaks, mistflower bush, Turk's Cap, and whatever else has dropped and floated onto and washed down the slope onto the flatter ground throughout the years).

     Yet turtle releases a modicum of preserved water, thereby muddying the top dirt layer, and soon she sits, either to abandon a beautiful perfect little hole, or a partially dug one, or, best for her and me, I return much later in the day or evening, or at least a day later, and, despite knowing exactly where her spot had been, for the life of me I can't spot where it was.  The cementing job has so perfectly camouflaged the nest that if it has completely dried from the original mud work, it's practically impossible to spot.

     Only months later when the hole is plowed from below upward and opened by the little ones having first broken through their shells (releasing fluid in the process to aid digging through hardened dirt) can that be determined, unless some sharp-sniffing raccoon, armadillo, or possum has happened by and dug it up prematurely, which sadly but business-like does happen from time to time.

     But when Mother Turtle has been extra lucky, then there is her hole empty but for some crumbled dirt and about 10 to 12 empty soft but fibrous and tough opened curled and folded-over oblong egg shells, bisected roughly longitudinally, in and around the hole.  There is no proud mother waiting nearby, of course.  She is going about her present business in the creek or lagoon or far away down the lake, and often I wonder if by sheer chance or some more programmed odds there will be a reunion, especially when I see a full-size turtle swimming by with a much smaller one trailing only very slightly behind, or stopping together to sun their hopeful heads, before moving on or diving, which I see often, and sunning on logs together comfortably, and allied.

     So there has now been another Spring, The Spring of the Eternal Turtle, Queen of Turtle Island, and however uncertain the future is, it's tellingly likely there will be Turtles in it long after we may be gone.  Nature blesses Herself as She can, and we're all the Blessed Beneficiaries.  We can remember that and work to live by it and allow such Sacred Attunement and Relational Respect to become our First-Nature.

     I also wonder what keeps Turtle going, and what She really stands on, and where, as she holds up The World.  I believe She stands over her completed perfect nest as she readies to return to the creek and let The Future take care of Itself.

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