Thursday, May 22, 2008

Go To Shell: Happy World Turtle Day

Now that the weather is warming up I often see a family of turtles sunning themselves on a large boulder jutting into the river along which I walk in the morning. Whenever I see them, I am moved to stop and just marvel at them. I don’t know what species of turtle they are, but I call them the Slowski’s after their Polish counterparts in the Comcast Internet ads. I didn’t see them this morning but I expect to see them all dressed up tomorrow because tomorrow, May 23rd, is their very special day: World Turtle Day.

World Turtle Day has only been around since the year 2000 so it isn’t as old as Shemini Atzeret (look it up), but for me it has more meaning than Shemini Atzeret (I mean it, if you want to know what this is, look it up yourself. Do I have to do all the work in this blog? Don’t answer that.) I don’t know why I love turtles, but I do.

Perhaps it is because they are, mythically speaking, the living embodiment of tranquility, and as an Enneagram Type 9, I am all about tranquility. Perhaps it is because the Cheyenne believe (along with Hindus and many others) that the earth is carried on the back of Old Grandmother Turtle, and I am very fond of the earth and old grandmothers. Perhaps it is because, as the Yoruba say, the turtle is also the trickster, and I was once given the name Coyote Rebbe by a Native American medicine man for whom coyotes are tricksters and who was impressed that every time he passed me the pipe in a pipe ceremony the coyotes in the surrounding hills began to howl. Perhaps it is because the Chinese say that the origin of the I Ching hexagrams is linked to the markings on a turtle shell. Or perhaps it is because I can take the day off for World Turtle Day by claiming it is a Jewish holy day no less important than Shemini Atzeret (LOOK IT UP!!!).

My love of turtles goes back to my youth when I managed several turtle farms, each of which ended in the death of all my turtles and their subsequent burial at sea (toilet, really). I now know that keeping turtles in a small plastic dish and using them to scare the crap out of your little sister is not what turtles are for, but it took me years to learn this.

Here is how I will celebrate World Turtle Day tomorrow. First, I will light a yahrzeit (memorial) candle in memory of all those turtles I murdered in my youth. Second, assuming I can find and afford one, I will place a giant turtle statue by my back door, which, according to Feng Shui, attracts good blessings to the house. Third, I will attend the celebration of turtles at our local science museum. Fourth, I will eat a turtle sundae. And fifth, I will help defend our reptilian Grandmothers by working to end the following: 1) the eating of turtles, 2) the racing of turtles, 3) turning turtles into pets, 4) polluting turtle habitats, and 5) running turtles over as they try and cross the road. (Why did the turtle cross the road, by the way, is the second most important question asked by humankind. The first is Why did the chicken cross the road?)

It is also customary to send World Turtle Day greeting cards and gifts to friends and family on World Turtle Day. Or it will be as soon as someone convinces Hallmark they can make money promoting this. In any case, I want to wish you all a happy World Turtle Day. And don’t forget to celebrate Shemini Atzeret which falls on October 21st.


AaronHerschel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AaronHerschel said...

I originally wrote the following some time ago as a parody of the wordiness and obfuscation common to much academic writing. I offer it again here, with some minor editing, in honor of World Turtle Day, and in pseudo-response to your question regarding the turtle and the road.

When confronted with an act as dangerous and daring as that performed by a turtle in its attempt to cross the treacherous and potentially fatal terrain proffered by the average country road (a landscape intended, in fact, not for the turtle's langourous tread but rather for the speedy unidirectionality of cars, trucks, and motorcycles), one is immediately compelled to pose a question whose ineffable nature and implicit assumption of anthropomorphic parity render it nearly unanswerable. That question, to wit, "why?"

However, if one is willing to forego the difficulties such a question may present to those who—perhaps out of loyalty to Descartian hyperbolic doubt or, indeed, a too-slavish application of the Heisenburg uncertainty principle—would seek to imbue it with existential depth, one may then hazard a tentative (obviously contingent) guess. Given the absence of any immediate material reward hinging on the turtle's crossing, as well as the absence of any immediate threat from which the turtle would of necessity flee, it is possible to assume that it is not the result of said crossing but, instead, the simple act itself that thus inspires the turtle. If this is so, one finds oneself encouraged to reply to the above question with the famed terseness of George Leigh Mallory (the climber who, when asked why he would attempt the perilous ascent of MT. Everest, responded "because it's there"), and answer in the complete absence of guile or irony: "to get to the other side."