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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

The Turtle

Everywhere you go your home is with you. In fact it's right on your back, rather it is your back. Your third eye rests centrally on the top of your scaled head. It only picks up light so it doesn’t see like we expect eyes to see, however the quick sharp shadow is sensed. Fighting gravity, and winning, the hollow boned splayed out wings beat the air into submission. A reptile of the sky cocks its black shining feathered head and its iris expands then contracts with a flicker to focus on the splash near the bank of the stream. Ripples flee in perfect circles from the point of entry and the raven sees the clawed back feet and thin tail wiggling out from underneath the yellow lined edge of the shell as they fight downwards the turtle descends to the safety of the muck like a zoetrope made of water.

Western Pond Turtle with algae growing on its shell hopes his camouflage will fool.

Darkness is a friend down here. It's cold, sounds are muffled, and it's hard to pinpoint their source. The Western Pond turtle escaped the dark shadow of a Raven, and forced his way further into the darkness. The Raven flaps his wings again high up in the sky. He wasn’t going to eat the turtle anyway. Without remorse thick black muck that smells of a childhood spent with mud in between the toes is sprayed behind the shell by claws and the turtle digs himself further underneath a rock covering. In this black muck there is salvation.

This raven found something better to eat than the turtle.

Six legs, a strong-armored-forked tail, pincers, and a future as a dragonfly, is unearthed from the muck by the turtle. The dragonfly larvae had faced a similar battle to the turtle. He had escaped certain doom from above and swam down to this dark muddy hole underneath the rocks to safety.

This Dragon Fly larvae escaped the clutches of turtle predation, climbed out of the water, and emerged from its aquatic exoskeleton as an adult dragonfly.

Yet in his bid for survival the dragonfly larvae, and his future, all ended in the powerful jaws of the turtle. In the darkness and swirl of mud the dragon was slain. Rather contently the turtle settled down underneath the rock, as he went from prey to predator rather conveniently. The muck begins to settle and sharp claws on the end of thick webbing shoot back inside their armored home.

A turtle rests somewhere below the submerged rocks.

The world will never flow without irony, without hardship, and depending on how you view it, and your mood, without humor. In this case the Turtle feels safe. He’s escaped, he’s eaten, he’s safely tucked away under a rock deep down in the creek he was sired in. Yet, he cannot stay here forever, the world wouldn’t allow it. Being an aquatic creature, designed for every curveball of creek life, the turtle cannot breathe underwater. His lungs begin to ache, and his sense of fear begins to wane. In a few short moments a bubble rises to the surface. Rings of evidence leave this disturbance on the surface. Then ever so slowly two eyes, and two nostrils break the surface tension. Unlike the bubble, this doesn’t even send rings of water out, how slowly and carefully the turtle surfaced.

The turtles point of view.

Not the sly gaze of the Raven or the water striders in their dance on the surface disturb the turtle. Ever so gently his webbed feet circulate and propel him across the pool. His nose and eyes wrapped by the surface tension of the water slide along like a leaf impacted by the wind. His mind begins to ease and the hot sun calls him to drag his shelled existence out onto an exposed rock. The sunlight pours through his shell, warming him, and moving his blood through his heart.


The feeling of bliss is quickly replaced again with fear. Laughter and a crash, an ominous splash. The turtle can hardly bear it and leaps into the watery abyss once again. Forcefully he claws through the water to the fleeting darkness of safety. Something breaks the water's surface behind him, a massive looming shadow with wiggling appendages leaves a trace of bubbles as it zooms towards his shell. Fear, shock, the acceptance of doom all fill the turtle's mind as he is pried from his safe haven through the water and out into the light. Giant eyes peer down as I turn the turtle over in my hand.

I measure his shell length, record it in the iPad, and based on the curve of the shell I tell you it is a male. The turtle is gently returned to its home with a great deal to think about, and another data point is added to my excel sheet.

Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.

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