THROUGH A TURTLE’S EYES
© 2007 Wanda L. Harrell
For the last few days, I’ve been visiting my daughter and her family in Orlando. Even in the hustle bustle of this tourist driven city, I found evidence of the Orlando that existed before the bigger than life mouse arrived with all the accoutrements that go along with him. These days, with all the seemingly endless highways, jets zooming in and out at break neck speed, lofty concrete skyscrapers, tourist traps and the people who frequent them, it is sometimes difficult to recall the Orlando where our family friends lived when I was a child in the late 50s and early 60s. When we visited Orlando, it was a sleepy, laid back town surrounded by citrus groves, ranches and farms. There were no paved ribbons of Interstate highways or theme parks or tourists from every corner of the globe to alter the serenity of the area.
This morning, before my 12-year-old grandson left for school, he and I were out back of their house where I watched a dragonfly soar in the early morning light, a lively squirrel scamper across a neighbor’s roof and two birds do what appeared to be a dance of courtship along the top of the privacy fence before they flew of in unison to a distant tree.
Suddenly, my grandson called out with a tone of incredulity in his voice, “Nindy! Come look; there’s a turtle in here.”
There, in the center of an outdoor dining table was a very large, but what appeared to be empty, clay pot. As I peered into this terra cotta vessel, my own eyes were in disbelief when I saw the object of my grandson’s attention. There, on the bottom, almost exactly centered over the drainage hole, was a small turtle. We scratched our heads trying to figure out just how this terrapin had found its way into a seven-inch deep pot that was, for a turtle’s intents and purposes, in the middle of nowhere.
Not wanting to frighten the creature, I laid the pot on its side upon the lanai. My grandson scurried inside to finish getting ready for school while I watched. It took some time, but the turtle eventually ventured out of the quasi-safety of the pot.
For a turtle, I guess it was hurrying as much as possible. It moved at a good speed as it made its way across the brick surface, and quite honestly, I think I’ve moved slower when my back kicks up. The hard-shelled creature was about half way across the lanai when it seemed to notice me watching its every movement. It came to a screeching halt. Well, it didn’t exactly screech like a vehicle’s rubber tires, but it did stop suddenly. However, it did not retreat into its protective shell. I, the watcher, had quickly become the watched.
It was then I began thinking about the small turtle’s perception of a human, a towering monster that could easily destroy it the blink of an eye. Although I was fascinated, the animal was likely horrified of me as I quietly peered in on its life while I waited and waited for it to move again. To my chagrin, it did not budge one inch further. With exasperated eyes, I went inside to learn more about this creature. I ran a search on the computer to discover the nameless being was a Florida Box Turtle. When I returned outside, the turtle was gone, most likely seeking safety from those human monsters that had long ago invaded its habitat. Its hiding place was most likely in the shrubs and plants at the side of the lanai.
This small creature’s ancestors were in this area long before any humans set foot upon this portion of land we call Florida, much less commercialized it almost beyond recognition. I’m still puzzled as to how this seemingly helpless, but apparently hearty little fellow got into that pot, but I am glad it happened. It gave me pause as I was reminded how rapidly things about us can change and how very small all of us are in the scheme of life and living.
NOTE: Earlier in the day, I gave my daughter the in a nutshell version of the turtle’s story, but had not had the opportunity to mention it to my son-in-law. While on our way to dinner this evening, my daughter, grandson and I began talking about the mysterious appearance of the turtle. With just a few words, my son-in-law, a police officer, solved the mystery. He explained, “When I was outside this morning, I saw the turtle in the middle of the back yard. I knew the lawn care people were coming to mow, so to protect the turtle, I placed it in the clay pot.” Hence, the turtle didn’t just drop out of the sky, but did make an impact on my life and those of my daughter’s family, and since I could not find it, my hope is that it was safely hiding in the bushes, out of sight from more of the human monsters, the ones riding their noisy and aggressive mowing machines.