T-U-R-T-L-E Power

Let’s me tell you a non-dance related story for a moment:

Last weekend I spent a bunch of time in my backyard removing a section of dead grass, then putting down new dirt and grass seed. For Friday and most of Saturday I left the large area open so that I could water it a lot and it would get some sun, but then Saturday night they said we might have thunderstorms, so to protect the area from getting washed away if there was heavy rain I covered it with a mesh that held down straw on top of the new dirt. Because I didn’t have anything on hand that day to hold down this pseudo-straw blanket, I pulled a bunch of large rocks out of the woods behind my house to hold everything down.

Of course, there was no overnight thunderstorm after I covered the area. Figures, right? Well, I was worried that the large stones were going to kill whatever was under them if I left them there too long, so on Sunday I managed to find a bunch of metal stakes that would work to hold the straw mesh down instead. Around lunchtime I was out putting the stakes in and picking up the rocks, putting them back into the woods near where I found them. It was hot, sweaty work, but once it was done I figured I wouldn’t have to do much more than move the sprinkler around to water the area a lot (unless it actually rained) until the grass started to grow.

Later that afternoon, I was in my bedroom taking care of some things, and I happened to glance out the window to look into the backyard. I saw a good-sized rock sitting near to the straw covering on top of some of the already established grass. It kind of miffed me because I thought it was stupid that I had moved somehow all the stones, put the stakes in the ground in their places, and then completely missed picking up just this one stone to put back into the woods with the rest of them. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of other things, so I told myself that as soon as I finished everything I would go out and throw that stray stone into the woods with the others, and hope that none of the neighbors noticed my stupidity.

But as I was doing things, I kept walking by the window, and I kept looking out at the rock. It was good sized, so I wasn’t sure how I had missed it when I cleaned up all the others. Plus, there was something… off about it. It looked abnormal. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, like an obsession. Finally, after ten minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and I put down what I was doing and went out into the dining room. I have a pair of binoculars on a bookshelf against the wall that I grabbed to look out at the rock through the back door.

Turns out that it wasn’t a rock that I had missed picking up. It was a turtle. Specifically a box turtle.

Now I was excited. I dumped the binoculars on the table and went out into the backyard to go say hi. The turtle was just chilling in the little valley in the middle of my backyard, right next to the straw blanket. It was a good-sized turtle, a bit bigger than my fist, which just happened to be about the size of a lot of the rocks I had been using earlier. The valley had a little bit of standing water in it, since I had been watering the grass right next to it so often since Friday, so I think it was just there to cool off on that hot afternoon. I talked to it for a bit, telling it that they were welcome to hang around as long as they wanted, then I went back into the house to finish up what I had been doing when I first spotted them, now much happier than I was before.

The turtle actually took me up on the offer to hang around. Over the rest of that afternoon, the turtle wandered closer to the back of the house. I kept going outside to see what it was up to, because I was curious why they were coming closer to the house. They ended up hanging around under a bush at the back of the house for a while, then as evening approached they went and buried themselves under the pine needles that cover the ground around the air conditioner, and actually spent the night sleeping there.

The next day (Monday) they took up residence under a plant that was directly below the window in my bedroom that I had first spotted them through, kicking out some of the dirt to make an indent for themselves, and just stayed there, not moving a whole lot. I went back to check on them as often as I could when I wasn’t in the office, just to say hi and see if they needed anything. They were so content under that plant that they stayed there over the next night as well. Then, finally, on Tuesday afternoon they just left the plant and slowly wandered back through the backyard toward the woods behind my house, and disappeared.
Good times, right?

While this was a pretty big box turtle, it wasn’t the biggest that I’ve dealt with recently. A couple of weeks ago I was on my way to go to the office one morning, and when I was about a block away I went by another turtle that was sunning itself in the early morning sunlight… in the middle of the left lane of the road that I was on! Since this was early morning, the road was still pretty quiet, but the road picks up in usage as business starts up in earnest at my office. Specifically, we usually have a number of large trucks going into and out of our building as they come from or go to the highway onramp that’s a few miles away from us.

Knowing that the turtle wouldn’t be safe there for long, I pulled off the road a little ways down and ran back to where it was. Two cars passed me as I was heading back there, and luckily both of them swerved into the opposite lane to avoid hitting the sunbather. When I finally got to it, I picked the turtle up and carried it back into the field behind it, where it must have come from based on the direction it was facing.

This particular turtle was the size of a dinner plate! And it was just sitting in the road! I mean, it’s hard to miss seeing something that big in the road, which is why I saw it, and I’m guessing why the other cars swerved to avoid it, but still… turtles really shouldn’t be on the roads. Lucky for me, it was pretty relaxed, just pulling itself back into its shell when I picked it up rather than trying to bite me. I put it down in the field a good way from the road, facing inward toward the middle of the field, and told them to stay safe before heading back to my car.

(FYI: I know you’re not supposed to pick up turtles and point them in the opposite direction they were going, but if I had taken it across the street where it was headed, there was only a building there that it would have run into eventually, which would have potentially forced it to turn around and cross the street again. It was safest to take it back the direction it had come from and hope that if I pointed it the other way it would head back into the brush of that vacant field toward the trees and stay out of danger.)

Those are two recent turtle stories I have. Why am I telling them to you? Well, I’ve realized lately (now that I don’t go many places anymore) that over the last few years, I was really only going out and socializing with people at dance events. Since it’s not really safe to do that again yet, I don’t really see too many people in person lately. I don’t even really see and chat with many people at work even though I go into the office most days. Lately I’ve been communicating more through email instead.

This type of anecdote about turtle encounters is the type of thing I would tell someone I talked to at a dance event. It’s interesting to me, but not really interesting enough to warrant calling someone on the phone to talk about. Best left to be used as a subject for small talk when in person. Since I don’t really do small talk with anyone at the moment, I needed to tell someone… so I’m writing it down here to tell anyone who is interested enough to read.

Is the lack of dance adventures lately going to impact my ability to make small talk once it is finally safe enough to start seeing people in person? I don’t know. I hope not, since it took me many years to train myself to not sound too idiotic when I talk with people I am only acquainted with. So maybe in the future when I decide I want to venture out again, I’ll sound like an idiot for a while when I talk to people. Hopefully those people just find it funny and endearing rather than thinking there is something really wrong with me.

Dare to be stupid, right?

Yay! Turtle friend!


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