Several years ago, while I was writing my memoir, I visited a friend in Carmel, California, and bought a green jade turtle with a baby on its back. I was captivated by it, and thought I should give it to my editor as a thank you for all her help. But when I got close to wrapping up the present, I realized I just couldn’t let it go. I showed it to her and told her how I’d felt a connection to it. Perhaps I would give it to her when my book was finished. Luckily she understood.
The day came and still the little turtle was sitting in front of my computer. Something about its expression, of passive contentment, carrying the little one on top, felt like a totem for the kind of care I would need to give myself when taking my stories out into the world
But it was more than that. Turtles carry their homes on their backs. They don’t need the protection of the outside world to say, “I’m home.” They just are. I realized that the process of writing my book had brought me home to myself. I kept the turtle, and it’s here before me as I write. “Turtle” has become my totem for “home in myself.”
The other day when I was out walking with my husband by Swan Lake, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, we came upon a raft of turtles sunning themselves on a log. Our presence didn’t disturb them and we stopped for several minutes, inspired by their stillness. There were five in a row; a family perhaps, or at least next-door neighbors. Not one of them moved. We took a deep breath and I felt for the first time that day, the warmth of the sun on my face. I had been so busy in my thoughts and actions, that I barely knew I was walking in my body.
I stood there wondering. How often do we connect to our bodies, or stop in the middle of the day to simply take in whatever is before us? How does it change our perspective, our sense of spaciousness?
Just as turtle represents home to me, nature is an effortless teacher. She abounds with examples of wisdom, simply from being her true self. All we need to do it spend time with her, and protect her, to be reminded of what’s important. Spending time in nature, is a good way to come home to ourselves.
1. What is your totem?
2. What does it mean for you?
3. Please share an experience you have had in nature that caused you to stop and realize something about yourself or your life that brought you home inside.