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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ode to a Loggerhead Turtle – Antiquity in Fluid Motion


A large loggerhead turtle was released on the beach yesterday after a long rehabilitation effort to make it well and strong. I shudder to think of the thousands of dollars this cost taxpayers.

On the other hand, I’m humbled by the familiar story called “The Star Thrower:”

“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

“She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

“The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

“The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”

— Adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren C. Eiseley
"Window on Pine Island" oil on wrapped canvas
It would be wonderful if we could save all the hurting children in the world and all the abused animals. What an enormous job for one person! But we can save the ones that are nearby. We can contribute to organizations that do the work for us. We can help our family, our neighbors, our friends and community.

That noble loggerhead turtle was valiant in facing the elements and the wide blue-green Gulf to transition back into the wild. I worried that our efforts to save him would be in vain. What danger awaits him out in the deep? Will he find his way back home? Although he was tagged for identification, we may never know.

"Pelican at Rest" oil on canvas; prints available
If we were to question every effort to help a living creature, a person, a child because the end result was unknown there would be little good done in the world. We help because we must. It’s called compassion, empathy and character. If we cease to act on these divine qualities that reside within us, the world would become a savage and brutal place.

Nature ravages earth's population enough without our adding fuel to the fire. This morning on our walk I saw a baby bird sprawled on the sidewalk. The storm of last night had blown him from his nest. He was a wet wilted pile of feathers; neck and legs outstretched in rigor mortis where he’d fallen. The sight brought back all the times I’d tried to nurse a baby bird back to life and failed.

The future is a blank slate. We can’t stop doing good things just because we don’t know if it will change the outcome. You or I could step off the curb tomorrow and that would be the end of us. Fearing the unknown is part of human existence. But that knowledge shouldn’t affect how we live our today's. 

For that reason, I’m going to assume that the loggerhead released into the ocean finds its way back to a wonderful existence where it may live for another 100 years. Marvelous creatures they enshrined with dignity and mankind’s history imprinted on their backs.
"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas