By Betty J. B. Brouwer
The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness. Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.
(Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweet Grass, p. 222)
One morning I received a gift; my eyes and heart continue to open up as I slowly unwrap it.
I didn’t realize it was a gift at the time. On an early morning walk I happened upon a turtle poised to dig a nesting hole and lay her eggs. Instinctively I stopped. I thought I was the one doing her a favour, standing guard so that she could lay her eggs uninterrupted by any off-leash dogs or oblivious hikers.
I am slowly beginning to realize that she with her hard shell etched with years of lived experience was the one granting me a favour, allowing me to witness an otherwise intimate and private moment, extending an invitation to me to observe, to learn, and to follow in her steps. She was teaching me. The learning is slowly working its way into my consciousness.
The turtle was slow, methodical, undeterred and focused in her task, deliberate in her movements. She knew what she needed to do and stayed focused, despite the immensity of the task. Slowly, bit by bit she was carving out the nesting hole, alternating her back legs to remove dirt from the ever-growing hole. When the space was deep enough, she began to lay her eggs, of which there were many. They were soft, white-shelled balls, the size of ping pong balls.
Each egg received careful attention as she arranged and carefully tucked soil in around each one. Then when she was finished, she systematically and purposefully covered up the hole that was now filled with potential. Then without any fanfare, she turned and quietly left, heading back to the water whence she had come.
She strode across the path and then into the brush towards the water. Despite the fact there was a big drop off to the shore, she did not hesitate but took the plunge, somersaulting, ending up on her back, but quickly righting herself, and then within seconds, she effortlessly slipped into the water knowing in the future there would be more to give.
Initially I thought the way she had laid her eggs and then turned and left them without so much as a backward glance was callous. However, upon reflection I have a sense that she was confident in her actions. She did what was asked of her, completing her task with care and trusting that the eggs that she laid and buried held potential.
Like the turtle, at times I am invited to labour, to stay focused and to give birth to ideas and to trust that with time they will emerge. The turtle reminds me to trust and be confident in what I have done and am doing and know that it will germinate. Like the turtle, once I have completed what I was called to do, knowing that the way ahead may involve some tumbling but that things will eventually right themselves, I turn to the rhythm of my life and slip into the essence of my being, knowing in the future there will be more to give.