this is what my free- form writing about the sea turtle turned up. not overly enthralled, but it’s just what came out. I don’t expect any of you to read it, though. it does feel good to write—and it’s been too long. always so happy when a good prompt comes along.
Perhaps he came ashore for the first time since he hatched on the white sands of some stinging Pacific atoll, one long since conquered, lost, infected with endemic everything, wiped clean, reconquered, and monetized. He came ashore to die, having spent so much time asea, a change of pace to a dangerous place—a place that so often in his life shook his shell with fear even at the very thought of it—so he could with impunity and without terror say “This is me; I am shelled and old and have loved and lost and loved again. I have seen more than any of you can imagine; I have dined with kings and swam with princes. I have eluded death for longer than death should be feigned and slipped by. I have hundreds of children, most of which have long since passed. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and on and on, have come past me in the Indian Ocean to simply ask how many years I have left behind. I have lived more than most—I have lived a dozen lifetimes in one leatherback. And, now, I will die, here, amongst all of you—so you can, too, tell of me to any who care to know what a sea turtle has to say.”
I wonder if he was aware of his years. I wonder if he cared. We live and we live, and I don’t know if we always want that to continue. But, without a shark or propeller to set us wild and free, we trudge onward.
I hope that turtle loved his life. I can imagine he knew so well the ways of the oceans that he could evade a shark’s tooth so adroitly that they simply stopped trying to catch him. His legendary deftness was told to all predators of the sea, and they, in turn, told their young: “You leave him be; don’t waste your tail trying—time cannot even catch that turtle.”
I believe he must have travelled all of the oceans and seas the world has to offer. He drank from ice floes in the arctic and kissed the calderas of underwater volcanos, still smoldering a thousand years after their last party. He must have taken miles like a glass of warm milk; they meant nothing to him, having spent so many. In his time, he would have circumnavigated the globe a hundred times over.
He surely watched the Panama Canal being dug, thinking highly of its utility. He dodged U-Boats like killer whales. He must have shed a tear when the fallout from the hydrogen bomb tests rained into his waters. He laughed at hurricanes, while enjoying the headwaters advancements through cities, giving him avenue and route to folks’ front yards.
He dreamed of nothing, because he saw everything. He mapped the floor of the ocean. He named the Mariana’s Trench, but he called it Sandy, after a girl he once knew.
The loves he had were the things the make legends cower and Petrarch sit up straight. He never forgot any of their names. He stayed with all for their lifetimes, whatever fate they befell. And, he grieved the loss of every one for a decade before courting another.
I wonder if he knew how many years he was going to have. I wonder if he measured years at all. Perhaps he did, for a time, but stopped counting them after the 157th drifted past his ear. He surely retired at 180 to a nice little isla in the South Pacific, went back to work at 195, retired again at 203, then decided to live out the rest of his days by working a light schedule. He was never one for a lack of inertia.
Did he ever stop swimming? Were his muscles and flippers tired at the end? He was in constant motion for centuries. Even when he slept, the tides and currents drifted him pacifically across the Atlantic. It was only at the very end that he finally was able to lie still. I can imagine the stillness must have felt alien, more strange than even the gawkers and their flashbulbs. I wonder if he enjoyed the attention he received while dying. I wonder if he knew or noticed.
He must have known he was something special. He must have seen so many of his kind (and of every other thing, aside from some ancient coral) dying. And, he didn’t