Monday, 7 September 2015

Baby Snapping Turtles, Loons, a Cuckoo Clock and JOY

Hmmm... Look at that cute little beastie. My cousin Dave would have a fit if he knew I'd wondered if turtles are reptiles. Well, below is a more detailed description...

  1. Turtles are classified as amniotes, along with other reptiles, birds, and mammals. Like other amniotes, turtles breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater, although many species live in or around water

Baby snapping turtle - photo from Google Images
Sandi and Jim, my sister-in-law and big bro live in the metropolis of Consecon, Prince Edward County, Ontario. You know - a stop sign or two, country roads and a fair bit of wildlife. Each spring regular turtles (large-size) and snapping turtles rise from the mud and marsh to dig holes at the side of the road or gravel path - not very deep - and lay a dozen or more leathery whitish eggs.  And come evening, most of the eggs are sadly munched, crunched, and slurped by coyotes, foxes, and/or raccoons, evidenced by the whitish-grey rubbery remnants near the nests the following day.

This one made it... as long as it didn't try to cross the road (Google image)

This year, a mama snapping turtle must have hidden her eggs more effectively than most. We found squashed baby turtles on the road.  :-( They must follow some ancient internal call to get - where? - to whatever was on the other side of a road that didn't exist eons ago? However, Sandi found one alive and placed it in the grasses. I found another on our return and, after a deep encounter (on my part) gazing into tiny black reptilian eyes, I gently tossed it into the brackish water below. Small splash. Rush to check and there it was - teeny thing swimming for all it was worth. YES! It didn't have to cross the road. It was going to make it - and p'raps grow into a massive snapping turtle.

In the summer of 1971, I worked as a Sister of St. Margaret at Trinity Mountain Camp in western Connecticut. One day I drove Jacqueline Smith, a counsellor, somewhere or other on mountain roads. We rounded a bend and we met mid-road a huge - as in nearly 3 foot wide grey-green shelled monster Snapping turtle. We certainly weren't going to drive over it, even if we could have done so. We couldn't get around it. So - car flashers on, I exited and picked up a very large stick to encourage movement. Right! I gently touched the rear end of said turtle and in a second (seriously - you thought turtles were slow?) it had swirled 180 degrees and grabbed that stick in its fearsome jaws. Good thing I hadn't used my foot!! 

Adult snapping turtle - we're talking mean ... (Google image)

Snapping turtles aren't high on my list of favourites beasties. Not exactly cuddly. Way, way below cats and slightly above tarantulas, scorpions, and rattlesnakes. Fascinating, though - the process of digging and egg-laying, the sadness that most become food for predatory creatures, the fact that a few survive and that we were in the right place at the right time to rescue two. The sheer power of the adult and the swiftness of movement. WOW!!

From Consecon, Lynda, Philip and I headed to an inn in Lake Placid for two nights. We sat in the Adirondack chairs, listened for the cry of a loon, and canoed both evenings on the still, dark waters of Mirror Lake. 

Our Adirondack chairs... the view ... Photo Philip Hawkins

Thursday, we took a boat  tour around Lake Placid and Mirror Lake.  Loons are fairly plentiful here considering that loons are territorial and don't share their space easily. Most dive at the hint of a boat approaching. There was one huge male loon who seemed to enjoy the attention, and paraded (paddled) about for everyone to ooohhh and aaahhh and take photos... What beautiful creatures! Their wild, haunting cry, as it says in the Canadian updated version of "All things bright and beautiful," cuts to the heart. 

Male Loon on Lake Placid - Photo Philip Hawkins

Turtles. Loons. Nature. Depths. Wisdom through the ages. Joy.

And speaking of joy.  :-)  Lynda's Dad, Ken, bought a cuckoo clock for her Mum on a business trip to Switzerland in the early 60's, not long before he died of a sudden heart attack. When the family moved back to the UK, the clock, of course, went with them. At some point, it stopped working. When Joan died last year, Lynda asked if I'd like it. Yes!! Oh, yes!! So, she and Philip found a clock maker in North Wales, had it fixed, and carried it carefully packed in their hand luggage on August 24th.

Near the top of my bucket list was - a cuckoo clock!! Philip installed it on my bedroom wall. It's the real thing. Chains to be pulled to wind it. A bird that sings on the hour and one cuckoo on the half-hour - plus four little musicians who play both times. Pure joy! I run to watch and listen as soon as I hear a peep/cheep/cuckoo. :-) 

My cuckoo clock :-)

JOY!!! (It can be turned off at night)

Things have been a little tense lately. At work. Truth-telling costs but not speaking costs more and differently. All's well... what a wonderful little community of faith we are.

And my car was hit by a fire truck on Thursday, August 27th. I wasn't hurt, but it certainly shocked me. The driver's window exploded into thousands of pieces. I kid you not. Ever look up from sitting position at the tire of a fire truck crushing your car? Saturday, I stepped on a piece of something in the hall, and discovered a piece of glass that must have been in my hair or clothes and survived going through the laundry. Firemen and police kept telling me, "But Madame, you're not hurt. It's just material." Yes. True. But, finally, I said to the police woman they sent over with the same message, "Have you ever been hit by a fire truck?!" She left.

So, life happens. I think there's another term - 'S**t" happens. So does joy. Friends happen. (More on that later as it deserves a blog of its own - a reunion of friends after 50 years.) 

And warm memories. Old photo to follow.

On the way home, we stopped at Schuyler Falls in Upper New York State. When we were children, we drove down for picnics. Potato salad and other Gram-made goodies. And Gram would sneak tiny plants with red berries and green, green moss home for her terrarium... 

Schuyler Falls picnic grounds. Photo Ros

Schuyler Falls Picnic grounds - so peaceful.  Photo Ros