DANCING WITH TURTLES
I seem to have an affinity with turtles since I lived in a turtle shell for about twenty years. Or so it seems looking back. But about sixty years later we were tourists in some sort of a sea museum and — well — I danced with one.
Turtle swam as I side-stepped my way parallel to the glass, he pushing aside the weight of the water with his large wing-like leg muscles while looking me in the eye. His tank was the length of our living room and when we got to the end he turned to the depths, reappeared eventually, and we started off again. But it was never exactly the same. He might stop for a while and maneuver in one place. (“If I turn away will she still be there?”) He was big. His eye had knowledge. Then off we’d go again. I think he was laughing. (But how can you tell.)
Other creatures were in there — but you’d have to consult “Information” to discover their names. Turtle (big turtle) was definitely who he was. Eventually I ran out of breath (he could swim fast) and followed others to a different exhibit. But this had not been an “exhibit.” It had been temporary companionship and play with a fellow living being whose life was a very different kind from human life and whose being was supported all his life by water which we could live in only by technical strategy and not for long.
However all this reminds me of very small turtles that used to be sold in pet stores. Our small son wanted to have one, so we arrived home complete with a little tank, some pet store landscaping and a tin labeled “turtle food” with instructions which we followed. But alas. His tiny turtle introduced son to death and we quickly supplied another one who also perished to a flood of tears.
Well — we lived in Washington DC, and they had a zoo, and the zoo had a reptile house, and the reptile house had a knowledgeable zoo keeper, and the zoo keeper had a telephone and over his telephone we learned that pet store “turtle food” was merely a very small appetizer. Not only that, our turtles were infants and all turtles require meat and vegetables, very clean water and calcium which we could get by scraping off the chalk they use on blackboards. They also need rocks to sit on.
So we got another turtle and did all that, named it “Go Go” and Go Go kept needing bigger and bigger containers to live in, and the zoo keeper who gave advice during the years, met her when she weighed one pound and pronounced her a very fine turtle although the bottom of her shell was just a little rough. She laid one leathery egg!
When we moved to Virginia Beach, Go Go came with us. Our son by then was in high school and one day we thought Go Go might enjoy some time out doors in the sunshine and we provided her with a large laundry basket, water and food, but alas, she was a climber and disappeared. We never found her.
Now, over my desk is a large turtle climbing a rock and facing us from his photograph. And on another photo are two relaxed turtle companions sunning themselves, relaxed legs dangling down, on a slanting rock, heads upright, close together. Pleasant reminders of turtle life.