My daughter and I are working on our second book about animals so we take advantage of any photographic opportunities with them in their natural habitat. We placed this red-eared slider turtle of hers in the stream that runs along my south property line. He seemed to enjoy it even though he doesn’t live here. It has the major elements that his species requires: water, rocks for basking in the sun, food, and places to hide. What he didn’t know is that the stream feeds into our pond: an almost 4 acre turtle paradise. Everything I’ve read about the optimal conditions of where you would find them in the wild exist about 120 feet behind him.
He didn’t know it was there because he couldn’t see it. That part of the stream is lined with day lilies that bend over the water. From his viewpoint of only a few inches above ground level, those lilies would have been like a wall hiding any indication of the pond. Even if he somehow got past the lilies he wouldn’t have noticed the waterfall mid-stream until it was too late. Waterfalls pose a particularity dangerous obstacle for turtles. Tumbling over the rocks and cracking his shell would leave him open to shock, infection, and internal injuries that accompany shell damage…all of which could kill him. To get to this turtle haven, he would have to leave the supposed safety and creature comfort of the stream and travel north across the yard and seemingly away from the pond. It would be a long trek for a turtle, but it would be relatively free of dangers and over soft grass. He would have to continue past a rather large area filled with bushes (that would totally block his view of this prized destination) until he came to the opposite edge of our property, turned left down the gentle grassy slope where the pond would once again, come into his view. But he would probably not even begin to travel this route because he couldn’t see what lay beyond the lilies.
The obstacles getting to the pond, coupled with the distance needed to travel, seem to be too much for turtles. Several years ago my neighbor found a red-eared slider in the middle of the street. She called around to see if anyone was missing their pet but no one was. After a few days of waiting she decided to point him in the direction of the pond. She wanted to show him the way so he would always know how to get back to safety. Maybe because they are instinctively protective of their shell, the turtle always took the path of least resistance which oddly enough, was away from the pond. We had to actually catch the turtle, pick him up and place him at the water’s edge before he excitedly slid into the water.
As humans, we are several feet taller than a turtle so our line of sight is much better than theirs. We could see the best and safest way into the pond from any point in any of our connected yards but not being able to speak turtle, we couldn’t communicate that path to him.
One turtle couldn’t get there on his own, the other didn’t even know it was there. Neither could safely navigate the obstacles unaided.
This experience poses interesting questions to me: Do I sometimes act like a turtle instead of a daughter of God? Am I allowing Him, with His incredibly perfect vantage point that sees all things, to direct my sojourn through this life and bring me home? Or do I take the path of least resistance which seems to always lead away from Him?
Today I have recommitted to totally trust Him to lead me to the safe places I can not yet see…and I am listening.