Thursday, July 9, 2009

Turtlemania—BTW I Happen to Live in Turtle Bay

Having been fortunate enough to visit the Galápagos Islands some years ago, I've always been a fan of turtles and tortoises. I remember the huge, lumbering Galápagos tortoise, its head, legs, and tail pulled in when at rest or asleep, resembling an enormous WWII Nazi helmet. And in Costa Rica, a truly memorable event was seeing a giant sea turtle lay her eggs in the sand by moonlight. In fact, even before then, as a kid I was occasionally given those baby turtles with "Souvenir of Miami" or some such other legend cruelly painted on their shells. These poor critters never lasted long, of course. My present turtle collection consists of just these three: a hand-painted one from Russia, with mermaids, considered good luck in peasant cultures there; another from a Santa Fe pottery artist; and a third, a Chinese replica of a Murano glass design, from the Smithsonian shop. In the past, I would occasionally see box turtles along the roadside when driving in upstate New York, although I now read that these are pretty endangered and rare. A wildlife book I own states that they are frequently the victims of motorists when, like the ubiquitous—and very slow—groundhog, they try to cross a highway.

Thus, it was encouraging to read this morning that all is not lost in the turtle world. If a bunch of them can hold up flights at JFK, there's reason for hope!

Two favorite bits of verse by one of my heroes, Ogden Nash:

Come crown my brow with leaves of myrtle,
I know the tortoise is a turtle.
Come carve my name in stone immortal,
I know the turtoise is a tortle.
I know to my profound despair:
I bet on one to beat a hare.
And that is why I'm now a pauper,
Because of its tortly, turtly torpor.
—from The Carnival of the Animals


The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.

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