Pilgrimage

I spent the balance of the morning following a prodigious snapping turtle making its way up my driveway from the neighboring pond on its yearly mission to lay its eggs.

The warning signal was emitted by the cat, loudly hissing and noticeably disturbed by something large rustling thru the underbrush bordering the driveway, prompting me to abandon my coffee cup and run outside to see what the calamity.

What a time I thought for my camcorder to be on the blink, witnessing some footage that would certainly present an interesting case for the turtle, the snapper having been around for eons of years and proving to be another of Darwin's survival of the fittest.

Standing respectively far from it, I watched the turtle drag its sizable shell up the driveway on its webbed feet, pausing momentarily to stretch out its very long neck and turn its head to the right and left.

Clearly purposed as to its destination, I suddenly realized that it was making its way to the back field where the turtles customarily deposit their eggs in June.

Nature so perfectly banked towards procreation, the way it works is that the turtle will not release an egg into the earth that it digs for its deposit unless the temperature of the earth is warm enough to incubate the egg.

Would there be the viable conditions for this mission today?  Already my curiosity was rising.

A large rock lay between the driveway and the path to the field.  I watched the turtle come to a full pause as it reached the rock -- and then, in a manner I could not describe nor explain, manage to hoist itself onto it, about two feet above the earth.

No sooner did the turtle scale the rock when it lost its footing and tumbled over to the ground, ending on its back.

Oh no I thought, the last thing I wanted to have to do was to assist a debilitated snapper, well aware of how far they can stretch their head out to, yes snap.

The cat by now safely enclosed indoors was having a hysterical fit clearly resenting this intruder and threatened by the entire ordeal.

Preparing for the worst, I searched the yard for something that would suffice to flip the beast over to its legs, finally deciding on a shovel.

Thankfully no rescue attempt was needed; with remarkable agility for such a seemingly clumsy creature, the turtle had managed to invert itself to its feet and was now back on its determined path.

Unable to resist the spectacle, I sprayed on some insect repellent and set out to trail the pioneer, intent on seeing just how far it intended to travel.

Good thing I brought my phone with me --because it was a long trip and my pace was decidedly impatient as compared to the turtle.

Nevertheless, how adroitly it cut thru all the grass and briars, the varying slope of the earth as it continued to the field.

Must have taken a half hour or more by the time it reached the open depression in the field where finally it ceased its motility and sat in the humid haze, again turning its head from side to side.

By single eyed purpose it then began to excavate a hole in the earth, digging and then digging more, first with its front webbed feet and then the back ones.

Once the required depth was attained, the turtle lowered its shell into the dirt, its back legs now digging out more dirt as if they were flippers.

I watched. I waited. I waited more. Another fifteen minutes passed and the turtle was still sitting there.  Suddenly I saw the outline of something that looked like a ping pong ball fall from beneath its shell into the hole it was sitting in. 

Once the ping pong hit the dirt the turtle's back legs frenetically shoved dirt over it to bury it. And then it reclined its shell back into the ground again until another ping pong ball fell beneath it.

"Where are you?" inquired a friend on the phone as I stood watching the turtle.

"Watching a snapper lay its eggs" I replied.

"You must really be bored" he said, laughing.

"Not at all" I replied.

It was at that exact moment that the snapper lifted its head and looked squarely at me.

What can I say? it was a snapper, I so entirely human

But this might well be the highlight of the day.

 


 

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