A beautiful, drizzly, morning
(My first sighting of our box turtle)
After Lauds, and Mass, I was on my way to our refectory, to do one of my duties, morning dishes. It was for me a beautiful morning. It was cloudy and rainy. When the sky is overcast it brings out the green in our grass, bushes, and trees. For me, it almost becomes a dark jade green color. It brings me peace to see rainy weather, and I guess, I love it more than sunshine. As I was walking towards the refectory, I noticed for the first time this year our box turtle. It is not a pet but simply lives in our ‘inner garden’. Has been there for many years. So I hurried into the refectory and cut up some apple for it.
As I was approaching the turtle, I was again touched by its beauty. I do not understand why I am so taken by box turtles. They are not colorful, but I love the shades of brown, and the markings of their shells. Also, I am intrigued because they can live very long lives. I hope our turtle is still around long after I am gone.
After years of being here, he is not really afraid of us, but cautious. So I slowly approached him, and placed the cut up apple pieces in front of him. When I placed the apples there, he, of course, withdrew into his shell, but again came out right after I stepped back. He dug in right away eating the sweet fruit. So I backed up a little more and watched him for a few moments.
The only protection a turtle has is to go into its shell. A pretty good defense most of the time, but when I walk through the woods I will from time, to time, see a shell that has been opened by some critter, or another. I can’t imagine what goes on in a turtles head, but seeing someone as big as a human, compared to his size, and the sound of my steps, must cause a bit of anxiety, or a lot. The fact that when I approached, it only stuck in its head, perhaps points to the fact, that it knows on some level, that I am not going to eat it, but just reacting, perhaps like an eye does when some object is coming towards it.
I can’t say I am a nature man. However, I do love all that is within our cloister (enclosed) garden. We have lizards, one bullfrog, of course, our turtle, and birds, who come to nest, or eat, on our lawn. Pigeons we also have. Beautiful birds when you see them close up. Though their red eyes can be disconcerting for me. I could do without their droppings, but it all goes with the territory. Like the geese, which we have in great abundance; I like them, but boy do they leave a lot of reminders that they have been there. Be careful where you step.
Speaking of geese. One day as I was going into town, I notice about a 100 geese on the lane behind our store. I have observed that they are in no rush to move out of the way of any vehicle that is trying to get through. How, dare, they! As I was in a feisty mood that morning, I just kept on going. I guess I was driving about 15 miles an hour. I did not know that geese could move that fast, wings out, running in all directions. They were indignant over the fact that I did not let them keep me from my business, and let me know in no uncertain terms, what an upstart I was. I am not sure geese can cuss, but who knows? I, of course, made sure that I would not run over any of them. I like having them around. I love seeing them with their young, walking along in a straight line. I would of course stop for the younglings, I am not that insensitive, I think. The coyotes help keep their numbers down, as well as the snapping turtles in our pond. Once many years ago, I saw a string of young geese following their mum across the water, when suddenly one of them was pulled under, the rest did not even notice.
When I was a young monk, in the early 70’s, we had two swans. While it is true that swans are beautiful birds on the water, on land, it is a different story. They lumber along, and on land, their long necks with their head on top, look sort of like a serpent with legs. I know, showing my own issue here…I do like serpents well enough, just as long as they don’t look like swans on land. They are also, to put it terms used by Pattie, “not nice”. They used to chase our guest around, and I would think some children probably developed a phobia for them. It was always a good idea to have bread with you so as to placate their unstable temperament.
One day I was down by the lake and one of the swans was eyeing me. So I got a stick, a big strong one, and dared it to take one more step towards me. Not sure if I would have actually hit it. However, on land, they are big, mean, and not the beautiful swans we see on the lake. In any case, we gave them to a park, and hopefully, they lived out their lives in peace, and not terrorizing too many people. About me with the stick, the swan did back off.
I did have one beautiful experience with our swans, in 1972. I was walking back to the Monastery, after work on our farm, which we had back then. It was very foggy, so I was happy to not have too much sun on me. Fog tends to muffle sound and as I was walking near the pond, I heard a subdued ripple on the water. Then the fog gently parted, and one of the swans floated by in total silence. I was overwhelmed, literally, by the beauty of the moment. So I do like swans, and don’t like them as well, and comfortable with that inner contradiction. I have lots of them. Cats come to mind….beautiful creatures, but having one for a pet (!), nope. To this day, I will think about that one moment, saved from oblivion, by beauty, silence, fog, and being caught off guard.
So Lord, here is to geese, swans (sort of), turtles (big time), pigeons, bullfrogs, lizards, and all critters, great, and small, yes, even cats. Thank you for this life, though there is still more that I don’t understand, than I actually do, yet I do trust in your love and mercy towards all creation…..amen. --Br.MD