The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Three – The Turtle Arrives

Snap decisions aren’t my style. I’d rather analyze, research, talk to people and sleep on my options. So then when I do make a major decision, I’m comfortable with it and I know it’s right. Then why would I be surprised that my life was unfolding with just the same plodding diligence? Even though I tend to physically move quickly, usually fueled by too much tea and dark chocolate, my dreams and goals didn’t materialize in that zippy fashion. As much as I tried to speed up life by walking very fast, I couldn’t force the seed to sprout or the flower to bloom.

When I was on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland during the summer of 1995, I awoke at around 6:30 one gorgeous sunny August morning and walked out onto my 6th floor balcony that overlooked the expansive beach. The large, low sun bounced off of the smooth ocean, making it difficult to see. However, it was tough not to miss the scene directly in front of my condo. Right there on the beach, the waves encroached upon a taped-off area the size of a small car. Yellow police tape. Had someone been murdered? My heart jumped at the thought. People were assembled around the area and thankfully I saw no police. I quickly threw on a bathing suit and shorts and ran down to nose about. After all, I had a right to know if someone had been accosted in the place where I felt so safe and relaxed.

I walked over to a group of people gathered near the tape and asked what was going on. As I drew closer, I saw a woman digging in the sand right in the middle of the taped-off area. She was pulling out what looked like ping-pong balls from the sand and gingerly placing them into a large bucket. One of the men in the group explained what had happened.

“I was taking a walk on the beach at dawn and saw a HUGE turtle crawl out of the water and up onto the sand. It was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!” The man held his arms outspread to full length. “And it started to dig with those enormous fins. She laid eggs and swam back into the ocean.”
Phew, no murder! Wow, I wished I had seen this turtle. It was a Leatherback, apparently pretty unusual for this species to be so far north. They are warmer water turtles. The woman with the bucket was digging up the eggs and taking them to a refuge.

Native Americans believe that animals and plants symbolize certain characteristics also known as their “medicine.” If you’ve heard of totem poles, they are a collection of animal symbols carved into a wooden pole. A village can have a totem pole and so can individuals. Each animal represents a specific quality associated with the village or person. Little did I realize but I was beginning to assemble my own personal animal totem. I knew nothing about Native American beliefs but I was about to be introduced to them as part of my journey.

I never forgot this event and realized years later that the turtle was to be my first totem animal. I learned that turtle represents patience on your journey. How very appropriate. My only consolation was the fable of the Turtle and the Hare. The turtle wins the race through persistence whereas the hare rapidly expends his energy and loses endurance for the long term.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.