Tuesday, September 9, 2008

From the Deep

Snapping Turtles are sooooooo left-over dragons. The boys think so. And really, I'm not about to argue. Myths more harmful than that are believed everyday.

Asa took this picture Sunday evening. It isn't the biggest turtle we've ever seen, but she was definitely large. (I read somewhere that only females emerge from the lakes to lay eggs and travel. The males stay in the lake all their lives. I'm not sure that's true but I do tend to call snappers "she's.")

The biggest snapping turtle I ever saw was so large it looked like something my Dad couldn't have lifted. It had emerged from Upper Puposky Lake and was trying to lay it's eggs in the gravel at the edge of the road, about a mile from the house I grew up in. Each plate on it's shell had a horn, like the tail spikes. The tail itself was so ridged it looked like an alligator tail. The claws were fearsome. It could raise it's head almost as high as Dad's knee. And it's entire shell was encrusted with moss and "barnacles" like the bottom of an old ship.

It must have been a very old turtle. I was convinced it was around during the dinosaur age. Maybe it's grandmother was...

What does our reaction to such a creature say about us?

The boys and I tend to make up stories about where the turtle has lived and which dinosaurs and dragons it has swam with. We speculate about it's secret lair and how mysterious it's underwater life must be.

Sometimes, after seeing a snapper alongside the road, we might see it run over the next day in that same place. Obviously, someone went out of their way to kill it, only to leave it behind...shell, meat, claws, everything.

Acts of cruelty like that...what compels someone to behave that way? Are these people deeply offended by the predatory mystery of this animal?

Last month my Mom looked out her window, and she saw a tawny cougar crouching beneath the trampoline about 20 feet from the house. A tremor of fear rippled through my entire family that day. We changed several patterns of behavior - just like the the person who swerves off the road, I guess. I confess to wishing I could kill that cat so I knew it wasn't a threat anymore. The DNR claims cougars in Minnesota are not a threat. Do people that kill snappers simply feel like I do about cougars in the forest? They just get more opportunity to live out their reactionary fear?
I don't know.

A few weeks after the cougar siting, I read that the cougar is a symbol of leadership and power. I relayed this to Mom and we discovered some profound meanings the cougar could symbolize for her. After that I no longer wanted to kill the cat. I just wanted it to never harm my family.

I've been dreaming about a cougar lately. These dreams are disturbing, to say the least. But I believe dreams come to us from the depths of our psyche...the depths of the universe...the depths of God.

Who can tell where the ancient snapping turtles come from? Do we see them rise from the surface of the water, expected? Usually they magically materialize at the edge of our paths. All of a sudden, a messenger from an unfathomable place is before us, displaying evidence of worlds we don't fully understand. We can swerve to kill that messenger. We can sometimes ignore it. Or we can look and listen; radiating and absorbing our fears for whatever they may be.

The cougar in my dream is only looking at me. It chooses to sleep behind the red barn of my childhood, or on the slope down to the lake. It isn't hurting anything. But awareness of it's presence causes me to be very agitated in the dream. I'm convinced it is dangerous. In the dream, eventually I want to provoke it so that I can have an excuse to kill it.

I'm not really that different than the person that swerves the car to hit the turtle, am I? Time to visit the depths of my soul, and face the mystery of my own fears...once again.


Tammy said...

Very thought provoking post. I've never had a problem wanting to randomly kill things, but that doesn't stop me from having the anger and fear some creatures provoke in me. I think that many people have been raised on the horror stories of what snappers will do (clamp on and never let go, pull animals/kids under the water etc. etc.)---most of which isn't correct, but many never question the legends. Around here very few snappers make it across the road--it always makes me sad--and I too think what ignorance drives those vehicles, ignorance that will destroy in seconds what has lived for untold years.

Becky Utecht said...

There are plenty of snappers around here. I agree they are very prehistoric, and I liked your imaginative thoughts. But I am not romantic about them in the least. Yes, some snappers killed on the roads, but I don't think they have many natural predators.
Early September is when the little baby snappers hatch out and head for water around here. I've seen them by the hundreds going crossing the yard heading for the river. The babies are SUPER cute! Maybe that female was coming back to uncover her nest? I don't think they need to do that, but could be why she was out and about at this time of year.
I think the animal guides concept is very interesting, have you read any of the Animal Speak books?

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

I haven't read Animal Speak books.

I learned about the cougar's symbolic meaning by opening a book about animal symbols at the book store. Really wanted to buy it but had no moolah with me that day. :)

I'll keep my eyes open for those books.

I believe the turtle was returning to the lake. Every spring they come out and travel to smaller ponds, and then in the fall they return to the lake. We saw it's distinctive track coming all the way down the driveway-headed toward Boston.

Becky Utecht said...

Coincidentally, there was a recent thread on the Sheep Production Forums about snapping turtles getting caught and killed in electronet fencing. I never even thought about that before. Poor things...