Monday, May 21, 2007

The greatest gift

The day was supposed to be sunny and cool.
Our half-finished project of cleaning out the grape vines seemed to be the perfect match for the day. Badly neglected over the years, the concord vines had been overgrown by every opportunistic, snarling, thorny plant imaginable—and wrestling with them was both tiring and dangerous. The leather gloves, heavy jeans, and long sleeves, made this quite a production. Thankfully, the bulk of the work had been accomplished in early spring. Now the cleanup was needed.
Piles of blackberry brambles and wild rose lay all around, tangled into the now knee-deep grass. Woody vines which had been slumbering peacefully, now sent forth reaching, wrapping tendrils. Tony headed out for battle, pitchfork in hand.
I, equally dressed for some serious branch wrangling, headed into the wooded area just beyond the grapes. The pines that had been planted on this hill years before, are now almost 30 feet tall. In the midst of southwestern Ohio, this area most reminds me of my northeastern home. A hot summer day's heat makes it smell of the north woods. A deep, soft pine needle cushion makes it a quiet spot—a place to seek refuge from the sun, beneath the dense pine branches.
By noon, our cool day had warmed to hot. Steamy and sweating beneath heavy clothes, I abandoned my task of clearing a trail and rested in the woods.
An object, partially buried in needles, caught my eye--probably another one of many cast-off pieces of trash, thrown away, out of view, to litter the woods. It resembled the mouth of a sneaker, white-rimmed, oval, and a few inches across.
When I picked it up, I discovered it was a box-turtle shell, bleached white bone, the edges uncovered of their scales, but otherwise a perfect, oval bowl.

Box turtles have a special place in my heart. On the roads, whenever I safely can, I stop the car and cross them, or whisk them to safety to our property, if I have the time. Too often, though, in the time it takes me to turn around and go back for them, they’ve been hit. Perhaps it’s the memory of my dad’s stopping to cross them, or the summers spent as a little girl growing up at a biological station. For as a child, I was given the appreciation and understanding of the world and our place in it.

I wonder which turtle left their shell for me to find, for it is magnificent. Such beauty in such a humble creature, its translucent scutes –an amber and black stained-glass window. If others could only see them as I do….
To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, an eternity in an hour.
~William Blake

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Susan Gets Native said...

How beautiful!
I am a turtle-savior, myself. But I experience the same thing as you...a lot of time they have already been hit by the time I get back to them.
: (

cestoady said...

I think that most people,me included, would not place the box turtle as one of nature's beautiful creatures-- but when the shell is viewed with the light of a bright blue sky coming through it (photo) as you have done , then it is more than beautiful -- , it IS magnificent indeed.

Thank you for the new perspective Nina !!

Mary said...

Nina, your description of a chore in the woods took me away. I sat there with you! Our bodies are ready for the heat yet!

I can't count the number of turtles I have pulled over to save on roads. I had many in Maryland and Delaware but I haven't seen one since I moved to NC :o(

Your post is awesome!

MojoMan said...

I think box turtles were one of the very first things that got me interested in nature as a young boy growing up on Long Island, NY. I haven't seen one in years and am not even sure if we have them here in MA. I miss them.

Watch Julie Zickefoose's blog for fantastic box turtle posts.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful discovery...
Nature is always presenting us with unexpected gifts...