It rises, then it sets, like clock work. It heals and it burns; it lightens and it blinds; it gives growth and hope as well as drought and death.
The sun follows the rhythm of nature, and within that comes the twisted ironies therein.
Two human beings raised by the same parents;
one may flaunt her every single cell
when the camera comes out,
while the other will reluctantly allow the picture to be taken, if he must.
One may study any and every risk assessment with a fine tooth comb before venturing to whichever edge appears along her path,
while the other finds that going to the edge is the very thing that makes him feel alive.
My deepest wish for them is that they never forget their worthiness and that they dare to follow the course of their lives wholeheartedly.
May their courage keep any shame from seeping in and stopping them in their tracks or keeping them from bringing their inherent gifts into this world.
In the words of Brene Brown, may they dare greatly.
May they dare as greatly as the leatherback turtle.
The leatherback turtles have been fearlessly coming ashore to nest and lay eggs on tropical beaches after roaming the high seas throughout the year.
They have been doing this for about 150,000.000 years.
Human beings, on the other hand, have been around for a mere 200,000.
That means that these amazing creatures, the largest of all sea turtles, who survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, have been around for 149,800,000 more years than we have.
Yet just a couple 0f decades ago, these new comers, the homo sapiens (translate: wise men) managed to gift the Dermochelidae their very own listing on the Endangered Species List.
In 1980, there were 115,000 adult female leatherbacks, now there are less than 25,000.
The reasons for their endangered status include losing eggs and turtles to poachers, turtles getting caught in fishing gear, tourist and industrial development on beaches that were former nesting grounds,
and turtles mistaking plastic debris for food.
Those plastic bags we seem to have become so dependent on look an awful lot like a jellyfish if you are a leatherback. A twisted irony, for sure.
If you were with us in Grande Riviere, Trinidad this week, you would have found it difficult to believe they are an endangered species. They were so plentiful all along the beach, confidently and bravely coming ashore to lay their eggs.
We knew they started arriving at night, laying their eggs in the dark and returning to the light at sunrise.
But to be sure, we started watching early on in the afternoon.
What we saw made it clear, that despite all of the roadblocks human beings have put in front of these gigantic prehistoric sea creatures,
they have managed to remain true to their natural rhythms and inclinations.
Every season, without fail, they show up, like the workings of the sun and the moon and the tides, after traveling the seas and fertilizing their eggs,
the female turtles come to tropical and sub-tropical coasts to nest.
They dare greatly.
Most of these enormous heroines did their daring in the pitch dark.
I was unable to take photos, because the flash would confuse them and cause them to lose their way and their rhythms, and they may never make it back to the sea.
But Elias and I woke up early and saw the stragglers, still doing their heroic acts of
finding a spot on the beach to settle and carve out a body cavity, despite the vultures lining up to get their eggs.
She uses her long rear flippers to dig out a deep egg chamber, in which she lays between 60-90 eggs.
She packs the eggs with sand, then uses her front flippers to throw sand around to help camoflauge the body cavity to keep the eggs safe from predators.
Then she heaves her determined heavy body stoically, clumsily, but determinedly
along the beach
and back to the ocean to fertilize more eggs which she will lay in another week or so.
When she is laying her eggs, she goes into a trance like state and looks as though she is crying. The mucousy, salty “tears” that come out of her eyes are not actual tears, but her body’s way of releasing excess salt through her salt ducts. The mucous also protects her eyes from the sand. When the salty drizzle falling from her eyes catches the dawn light, it sparkles with a magic that is otherworldly and beautiful.
When she is in this trance like state while laying eggs, she doesn’t mind being touched by gentle human hands.
Leatherback turtles are quite graceful when they are swimming in the water, but traveling on land is a more arduous task.
This poor gal inadvertently landed in the freshwater river instead of back into the ocean.
Sometimes even the greatest darers need a little help along the way, to get out of a sticky situation
or to nudge us back on track when we need it. (even if we weigh alot and can’t go in reverse)
Daring greatly can be a collaborative process.
Sometimes we need help getting the debris cleared from our path,
other times we need someone to bear witness to us in our daring moments.
It could be that a simple pat on the back from a trusted friend is enough to send us along on our daring path.
Each turtle has a pink spot on the top of her head, of a shape and design unique to her, like our fingerprints.
Each palm tree casts its own individual unique shadow
not all that different from the turtle’s path.
Some of us are natural turtle whisperers,
While others prefer to spend their early morning hours swinging from the almond tree.
as far away from the turtles as possible.
We all dared greatly in the early dawn hours of April eighth, the birthday of my sister who carried an orange corduroy stuffed turtle with her wherever she travelled.
I know Connie’s spirit was with us on this amazing morning of her 52nd birthday.
The most unfathomable of all the twisted ironies was that she wasn’t here with us in person to celebrate.
I woke up this morning and began reading your blog. The pictures are AMAZING! Everytime I experience life with you all, I can’t help but find myself feeling left out. Everyone looks in their element, settled, happy, peaceful…. I have always dreamed of watching the sea turtle … Thank you for allowing me my first viewing! Miss you all.
Well from you, Wendy, that is a compliment. You have such a gift with the camera. Thanks for coming along on the sea turtle journey with us. It was truly amazing, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend Connie’s birthday. Miss you too, hope you are all well.
What an extraordinary experience! You’ve created a moving documentation of a mysterious and magnificent phenomenon, and brought us closer to all of you, at the same time. Love to everyone!
You are entirely welcome, Mary!
A beautiful and touching weaving of turtle lore, family portraits and remembrance! Thanks for sharing your gifts, Ellen.