I’ve always loved turtles. I honestly don’t remember how it started, but 20 years ago my best friend, Jo, and I came up with a phrase that threw us into teenage giggles. Behold the turtle. It led to a lasting tradition of giving each other turtle gifts over the years. I think of her whenever I see a real live turtle or a turtle figurine.
In February, I came across the cutest turtle figurine I’ve ever seen. It was at the home of a dear friend who had bought some at the Tucson Gem Show, which brings together an incredible display of crystals, rocks, and jewelry from all over the world. These turtles came from Morocco and they immediately called out to me. I had to give one to Jo. I did, and she loved it.
There’s another animal that has come to fascinated me over the years is the snail.
Last summer, I read the book “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating” by Elisabeth Tova Bailey and fell in love with snails. I learned so much about them and how they move and eat and act. It was a beautiful weave of thoughtful, poetic reflection and science-based information about these fascinating little creatures – I highly recommend it!
This summer, I was sitting down by the river during one of my late-evening walks to soak in the 8 PM light, my favorite of all of the light that graces us during our days. I was sitting in a chair doing a lot of feeling, feeling all the emotions that many of us have experienced over the last few months and, in this particular case, fear. Fear of loss and the incredible weight and visceral feeling of love for my family. I was praying for their health, praying with all of my being. As I sat there, I slowly came to notice what was going on outside of my body and beyond my intense feeling. As the light faded from the late June evening, fireflies appeared all around me in incredible numbers, blinking furiously – almost as if to get my attention. Come out of your fear, they seemed to be saying. Notice the beauty of the world around you! As I focused on their light and beauty, another sense kicked in. I could hear a very soft, very faint but constant crinkling noise. It took me awhile to figure out what it was. At first I thought – a mink walking through the tall grass? I looked back to where the mink usually are and didn’t see anything. I focused my attention and realized the sound was coming from very close to my chair, all around me, surrounding me from the ground up. I listened even closer and looked down and realized it was the sound of hundreds of snails eating grass.
I never would have connected that noise without the book I’d read the previous summer. I wouldn’t have noticed it without the fireflies first bringing me out of myself and my fear. It was such a reminder to me about the cyclical nature of life, attention, awareness and noticing. It blew my mind that a book I read a year ago would now change my experience and bring me into greater depth and awareness to the natural world around me. I was drawn out of my self-absorbed, small experience of fear and emotion into a very expansive awareness that included the tiniest creatures all around me, full of teachings, if only I would take the time to notice them. I was humbled by the snails that evening, and so grateful for their presence and teachings.
As I was meditating this morning, I held this little guy in my hand. I now have my very own adorable turtle friend, a gift from the same dear friend in Tucson who gave me the turtle for Jo. As I was meditating, it became clear that the snail and turtle inhabit similar energies – energies that I’m building in myself and in my own life. No wonder I’m drawn to these creatures and their ways of being in the world.
In their world of grass and pond, woods, navigating sheaths of grass, existing below where my human consciousness often lies, they are showing me how to live.
In gratitude to their wisdom and energy:
behold the turtle (and snail).