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.”

MERE TURTLE HUGGERS.”

Really?!

 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.”

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