By: Karen Stevenson
While walking in an open pine studded meadow above the draw where a small pond and stock tank are fed by a spring, I happened upon a turtle shell, belly side up, on the ground. It was late autumn, the threat of snow in the air. High and dry, this western painted turtle could have succumbed to any number of predators or simply journeyed too far from its watery home and literally dried up. But what a beautiful find! Its underbelly was an example of exquisite symmetry of design. The plates on the rim of its shell were like mosaic tiles painted in broad strokes of a deep green painted on a faded yellow background. What appeared to be a pelvic bone rattled about inside and upon closer inspection, I could see the spine, each vertebrae fused to the turtles shell. According to Wikipedia, western turtles have been around for 15 million years and this particular breed of turtle can live for 55 years. The Native Americans revered and respected the turtle, associating healing, spirituality, and wisdom with this animal. I held the shell in my hand and marveled at its beauty even in death. I want to believe in the power of myth, that somehow this turtle of ancient origins, its species surviving for eons despite environmental plagues and threats to our planet, will bring healing. I hold it a little longer, as if it were a genie’s lamp and try to conjure up the right words, before returning it to the earth from which it came.