Turtle Steps


In my last blog I mentioned that in the completely integrated web of Nature, everything has its place and its purpose. In that entry, our wonderful Sheltie named Indie, short for Indiana Jones, was the focus.  In this one I discuss the beloved sea turtle or, as it is known in the Hawaiian language, Honu.

Since it is a reptile, the sea turtle lineage goes back about 300 million years. In a unique twist, after emerging from the sea and fully adapting to life on land, sea turtles evolved to go back to the sea. This caused them to develop a refined set of adaptions and skills so they could harness the best of both worlds.

Sea turtles are excellent navigators because they have special traits which allow them to be sensitive to the position of the sun, water temperature, and wave direction. They also have an internal magnetic compass in their brain so they can determine their exact location, which is essential because they migrate great distances to feed and to lay their eggs. In fact, when they are born they imprint on the local magnetic field so that when they are mature they can return to the same beach to lay their eggs.

The Hawaiians and Polynesians have a very special relationship with Honu. They see turtles as a symbol of longevity, good luck, and wisdom. Legend has it that it was the turtle that guided the Polynesians to the Pacific islands that became their home. They believe that turtles can be a guardian spirit for people.

Many native cultures have the concept of a “spirit animal” (or “power animal”).  They believe that spirit animals can teach us important life lessons, improve our lives, and protect us. We can choose our own spirit animal but often they seem to choose us. The Zuni people of the southwestern United States had the most evolved spirit animal lore. Through their ceremonies each person finds his or her spirit animal, and the inherent qualities and attributes of the animal are transferred to the owner.

It probably is no surprise that my spirit animal is the Hawaiian green sea turtle (in Hawaiian the turtle guardian spirit is called “Aumakua.”) During my visits to the islands I am enchanted by their grace, quiet beauty, and their enjoyment of life. I am also intrigued by their persistence and endurance. I have spent many blissful hours photographing them, and the photo above of a Hawaiian sea turtle coming up for air is one of my all-time favorites. To Hawaiians the sea turtle represents long life and wisdom, and we have much to learn from them.

Turtles seem to know that wherever they are is where they are meant to be. They don’t fight the current, but rather, move with the flow and use the tides and waves to their advantage. Their nature is to explore and find an even better patch of algae or a quiet lagoon to rest. They seem to let the pressures of the world flow right off their backs.

When sea turtles are lost or pushed off course, they don’t worry. They enjoy what the environment has to offer. When they need to get closer to home they tune into the quiet center of their mind, read the signs, and sense the magnetic fields. When the surface is rocked by the weather they dive to the bottom and quietly wait out the storm. I had no idea that they can even sleep underwater. In fact, turtles can hold their breath from anywhere from 30 minutes to 10 hours!

As previously mentioned, perhaps their most amazing feat is the ability to be on land as well as the sea. When they are too chilled in the water or need to escape predators, they haul themselves out onto the warm sand and experience the benefits of land. That flexibility is another admirable example for all of us.

All of these qualities and lessons are applicable for us at any time of the year, but are especially useful to us during the upcoming Christmas season. During this holiday we are assaulted daily by commercials imploring us to spend our money, and the true messages of Christmas can get drowned out by all of the noise.

However, like the sea turtle, we too have the ability to retreat to a quieter place. If we follow their example we too can thrive in any environment, be more resilient, and deal with anything life throws our way. We can look within and rediscover the simple joys of the Season and share the goodwill with our closest loved ones.

It is wise for us to remember that these gifts of wisdom from our spirit animals come with responsibilities. Our friends need our protection. They require appropriate wild places so that they can flourish, reproduce, and be what Nature intended them to be. They give so much to us, and we need to return the favor by ensuring that our future generations can experience them in the wild.

My Christmas wish for you is that you will take in these insights and carve out some much needed time in Nature, find a few minutes of peace of mind away from the chaos, and go with the flow.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays my dear friends! Happy New Year--2018 is going to be another awesome and inspirational year!!