Turtles and totems

Sometimes, in the rare moments when my brain is not in overdrive, I imagine myself walking through a View-Master. Virtual reality (not to mention the advent of 3-D movies and 4K TVs) may have turned that charming device from my childhood into an anachronism, but memory retains the magic. I still have one, purchased when my daughter was young and we were all not yet in the grip of technology.   If updated models (including apps available for download) are any indication, maybe it’s not just nostalgia being marketed here. Isn’t there something inherently mysterious and wonderful in the intimacy of putting a red plastic device up to your eyes and watching scenes unfold?

In the beginning, the more I think about it, was the image, not the word. How could all that light come into existence without picturing it before giving it a name?

I have a thing for the color blue. I also have a husband with his own design-specific tastes (a talented guy at that), which makes it all the more meaningful that he ‘acquiesced’ to myyoga room request for a blue carpet in a renovated room I’ve dubbed my tree house, since I really am eye level with trees up here. I take nothing in my life for granted and count it among my blessings to have a personal go-to place for yoga/meditation, listening to music, reading, or just breathing.   I take great pleasure, too, in giving friends who come to visit a serene room of their own.

Some things are reassuringly consistent. The calendar announces the spring equinox. Outdoor temperatures may have us saying the season has arrived ‘early’ or ‘late’ but either way perennials really do come back, bulbs blossom and those turtles lined up like sunbathers on logs tell me what I most need to know about renewal. They are always pretty much in the same spot on the lake and I always stop to marvel at the scene. Invariably they sense my presence, as quiet as I try to be, and one by one they drop into the water.turtles2

Why is the sky blue?

Every child inevitably asks the question, and scientific explanations never quite cut it. Growing up with a father who loved to sing (a reality I would turn into fiction), I was always touched by the answer Cab Calloway gives his daughter, Lael, in their ‘Little Child’ duet. Lael also happened to be my mother’s name.

That was then/this is now. My father and mother are gone, and it always requires some mathematical calculation to mark the passing time, almost sixteen years for him, twenty-three for her. It does not seem like yesterday.

Sometimes I feel a little lost, not a bad thing, Rebecca Solnit reminds me in her luminous book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. The very first essay, “Open Door,” plunges the reader into the experience of a young girl at a Passover seder. I’d be hard put to ever see the horizon in the same light after reading “The Blue of Distance.”

“Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world,” she writes. She makes poetry of science here: the blue that colors the horizon is in fact light that doesn’t travel the whole distance from the sun and becomes “the light that gets lost.”

In the realm of meditation, the throat chakra manifests as blue. It is the seat of self-expression. Voice. Even a brief moment of seeing it (or, for that matter, any color in the chakra spectrum) takes me from lost to found.

It’s a balancing act, indeed. Going inside oneself, quieting the internal chatter. Coming out, hopefully with a deeper sense of presence and ease to bring to any conversation around any table. For those turtles on a log balance is second nature. As totems, turtles call up perseverance and longevity. Be the turtle coming out of its shell, a yoga teacher of mine was fond of saying. That protective armor we carry on our backs is as real as it is a metaphor. One day it hit me with the force of revelation: they’re not just slow, steady creatures. They swim, too.

Speaking of totems, was there ever a tree more alive in its deadness than this one, playfully My totem #1posted on Facebook as my updated profile photo? Somehow it tells me that the past is always with us. If you’re lucky, the weight of it is off your back, freeing you to be present to the moment and open to the future. To put it more eloquently (again, Rebecca Solnit): “Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.”

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Turtles and totems

    • Thank you, Diane. As a photographer, you’ll appreciate knowing there were even more turtles on the log when I got near, but, alas, they were camera shy 😉 and dipped into the water before I got the photo. Am grateful for what I did capture, including the shot of that one lone snapper.

  1. This is so beautiful, Deborah. I’ve always loved the color blue, as well. And what a lovely room — a tree house. Perfection. But those turtles! What a magical sight. Big hugs!

    • In the grand scheme of things, metaphor is everywhere — right?

  2. As always,
    stunning writing, which I SO MUCH appreciate in this world of “not good writing!”
    Is that your ‘blue room?’
    I want to write there. Oh, My. xx

    • Indeed that is my ‘blue room’ (which may indeed give rise to a blue period in my writing 😉 Seriously, though, talk to Britton re: the effect on writing in that space when she visited.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *