Free the Turtle


This morning walking to work I got thinking about turtles. Images. The painted turtles sunning themselves on the half-submerged log at Point Pelee. The pre-historic snapper lumbering across the dirt road to the irrigation canal in Dover Township. The giant tortoises mating at the Detroit Zoo (that was a lesson!) The hundreds of hatchlings in the documentary scrambling from nest to shoreline past snacking sea birds. The stand-up comedy classic by Jonathan Winters of the amorous turtle crossing the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My son Jordan hopping a ride on the leathery shell of the sea turtle near Honolulu Beach.

But mostly my thoughts turned back to a pet miniature turtle that my Mom got for me around age six or seven from that wonderful pet store at Covent Gardens Market in London. I had just recently become interested in swimming (my Dad having won the battle of wills at the cottage at Long Point. I finally took my feet off the bottom.)

The pet had one of those plastic dish homes complete with coming-ashore ramp and tropical island with plastic palm tree. He was about three inches long and alternated between still float, frantic paddling, scratching up the ramp to his "beach" and popping turtle flakes. Such pets are no longer retailed. Some worry about a contagion.

I began to think that he was bored. I was bored. One summer afternoon I considered the sparkling white pedestal bird bath in the back yard. Why not free the turtle to some real swimming? Grabbing him by the sides of his shell I escorted him to his Olympic-size forum. Then I ran inside to tell Mom the good news.

It took the crow only a couple of minutes to perch at the bath, pluck his hors d'oeuvres and then fwop away to the open sky. For a moment Mom did not understand the pint-sized drama.

What followed was a gentle lecture on the need for supervision, limits, the safety of home and the reality of troubled waters and voracious crows out there. Perhaps God was coaching her. He has the same concern for His children in their haste to experience that big world, when for a time His plan is the controlled environment, training in small ways and the plastic palm tree.

There are hazards in this fallen place. The "fallout" from Adam and Eve's blunder pollutes the landscape much more than any choking radioactive cloud. We need to be carefully taught. Liberty is a process and not a "busting out".

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