Sunday, June 7, 2015

Turtle Wisdom

A fish cannot drown in water.
A bird does not fall in air.
Each creature God made
must live in its own true nature.

Mechthild of Magdeburg

Early morning sun filters through the leafy canopy outside.  Myriad greens --  sunlit chartreuse and shadowed emerald -- float on the late-May breeze.

I toss the covers off and ten minutes later I'm out the door.  Cool air  exquisite on bare arms.

The moment I round the corner that opens onto the pond, my body viscerally relaxes.  My mind expands with the view.  My entire being knows -- this is the place I stop and sit. 

I approach the dock with soft steps.  Still,  a duck emerges from the rushes and glides away.  The birds put up a fuss, as if I'm a foreign invader.

You'd think they know me by now?

I'm greeted by a dozen turtles!  I've never seen so many at once, here in the water at my feet.

Several larger ones are embedded in the cloudy bottom.  Foraging? Pale lines criss-cross their backs like crooked tic-tac-toe boards. Suspended in the water, three babies stare at me with their tiny wizened faces. Their shells are about the size of a compact, ringed with bright orange markings. Their little paws hang motionless as they regard me with curiosity. 

I think.  I mean, who knows what they're thinking?

Several other triangular-shaped heads dot the smooth surface -- a constellation of turtles.

The ones on the bottom rise lazily and poke their heads up too.  There's a thin layer of dust on their shells.  Their movements are proverbially slow, until I raise my hand to lower my sunglasses so they can see my eyes (ridiculous).  But when I move, they scurry away. One of them slips into the recesses of the mucky bottom.  Later, she re-emerges; realizing, perhaps, that I'm no threat.

They look like a bunch of wizened old souls, ancient in their self-possession.  Navigating the borderline of earth and sky, heads pointed toward the sun, bodies in the watery realm.  They burrow in the cloudy depths and sun themselves on shoreline rocks.

I  know them because I'm born in the sign of Cancer -- the crab.  Like these turtles, I wear an energetic shell -- a persona, fraught with defenses -- a shield the world has taught me I need.

Lately though, everywhere I turn, there's a lesson on the power of defenselessness.

By this, I mean dropping habitual defenses and venturing into the mucky-bottomed shadows of the deep psyche.

It's like hauling buried treasure up from the bottom of the sea.  The chest's hinges are rusted; the lock is encrusted.  But despite whatever made us lock away some part of our soul, or  seal off a terrible affront to our being, the treasure -- our essence, our innocence -- remains. 

Because God created us in innocence, it cannot be destroyed.

Behold your Innocence

Feel it glowing within

like rainbow-hued gems glistening in the sun

sprawled on the deck

of the ship of your soul. 

These turtles teach us to plumb the depths and to accept the light.  When we plumb our own depths and accept our own light, we find that we are as alive and vital, ancient and new-born, wise and playful as these humble master teachers.

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