Turtle Huggers

under the dock

A snapping turtle at Higgins Lake

My aunt gave me this book, VOYAGE OF THE TURTLE, by Carl Safina. I was looking at the blurbs in praise of the book and one said: “Carl Safina is a rare breed of writer who doesn’t just do research to get the story, but enters the story and lives it [awesome so far!]… The result is a fascinating narrative that will appeal to a reading public beyond mere turtle huggers.”



 Why not just say the book will appeal to a wide audience, or to readers unfamiliar with turtles?

This is from my memoir draft:

I am on the phone with my mother, trying to sort out the origin of my belief that I am a problem [illegitimate]. She points out that I watched my blue-eyed cousins grow up in big, fine houses with rich daddies while I was the child of an artist. My mother the artist says, “You were much more of a Sesame Street kid,” which puts the picture in my head of a little girl with dark eyes and pigtails skipping down steps onto the sidewalk. A gritty city kid. I line it up with other things said to me. Like when I was admiring some crystal and silver in a bridal registry and my mother-in-law to be said, “You’re a stainless-and-pottery girl.” And my sweet, rich cousin I used to babysit, who came to visit and stepped inside the barn I was living in and looked all around and said in a cheerful, bright voice, “Well, this is just right for you!”

I tell Mom how it makes me feel, being told, “No, those shiny things aren’t for you, Wendy.”

Mom says it’s interesting the way we hear things. She tells me that when she said “Sesame Street kid,” she meant Kermit the Frog, and Big Bird. She meant the frog and lizard and turtle dolls I made that were all packed away in a suitcase. “You made Sesame Street,” she says. “Those frogs were brilliant. You open that suitcase and magic comes out.” My throat aches from wanting to believe her completely this time. She has said this to me before. She would say, “You are so gifted with your lizards,” and she’d tell me how creative I was making those frog dolls, and it would piss me off and I’d say, “How am I supposed to pay the rent with that?”

I have a better understanding of why I had such a hard time pursuing a “career” in creativity and striving to show humans why we must stop destroying wildlife. I am a species of “tree and turtle hugger,” which gives the impression of a fanatic, semi-legitimate, overly emotional wishy-washy idle person, not serious and who doesn’t do much of real value. I realize I am defensive and I exaggerate. I don’t mean to be shrill. It’s so important to stay calm, and not alienate. But why do we shove animals and nature right out of the way, like it’s all about us humans? “People first,” we say. The clock is ticking on wildlife and biodiversity. I wonder how we will continue the everlasting fight for human rights, justice, peace, and ending world hunger on a planet that’s devoid of wildlife. What kind of world are we fighting for? What about the Rights of Nature –that little sort of grassroots “fringe” movement striving for legitimacy.

Here’s Birdfoot’s Grandpa by Joseph Bruchac

The old man

must have stopped our car

two dozen times to climb out

and gather into his hands

the small toads blinded

by our lights and leaping

like live drops of rain.

The rain was falling,

a mist around his white hair,

and I kept saying,

“You can’t save them all,

accept it, get in,

we’ve got places to go.”

But, leathery hands full

of wet brown life,

knee deep in the summer roadside grass,

he just smiled and said,

“They have places to go too.”

A Mess

Mao & Me 1993

Sebastian’s grandfather Mao and Me at Finca Cyclura, 1993

This is how it’s been lately.

I picked up cellulitis in my left foot. Don’t wear sandals to the airport. Mom urges me to the ER, for which I’m so grateful. All those antibiotics and shots in the butt. Years of restoring gut flora with probiotics and fermented foods gone. Start over. Filling out papers to get financial help. I burned my list of things to accomplish this month. A forced time-out. Sort of, since it is impossible for me to climb down out of my own ass. (I love that –from BREAKING BAD.) One good thing, I got my work in on time –my memoir draft for the workshop. And I’m not in the hospital and it is getting better. Of course my digestion is simply over. The “gut-brain connection.” I’m proof that gut flora imbalance causes terrible mood swings. Now we’re in the gut, for crying out loud. My life-long need for a slim tummy –can’t I let that go at 55– but more to the point, I need a clear head and palatable behavior. Because God forbid, I should be difficult. I had the foresight to schedule some self-help work for July, the one item from the burned list to keep me coming to my office every morning, to keep me from coming apart. I’m doing Dr. Schechter’s books, THINK AWAY YOUR PAIN and THE MINDBODY WORKBOOK. (This work has helped me more than any special diet or exercise! I recommend it!) Writing down responses to questions about emotions and tension. Trying to stop holding tension and fear and rage and anxiety in my gut, because I can’t breathe right or go to the toilet like a normal person. My whole life, herbs, acupuncture, veganism, juice fasting, yoga, Pilates, biking, deep breathing. Lizard time would really help, if I’d only let myself have it. My lizards keep telling me to slow down, take some time. “Be with us,” they say.

My writing trudges, isn’t snappy. I blame the antibiotics today. I am struggling to let go, struggling to not struggle. Struggling for self-acceptance. I remember when Norma sent me this poem:

God Says Yes To Me

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish

or not wear nail polish

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph

my letters

Sweetcakes God said

who knows where she picked that up

what I’m telling you is Yes Yes Yes

—Kaylin Haught