Friday, April 24, 2009

Nature Does Not Hurry, That's For Sure

This morning I had just let the dog out, and while I was serving Hank his breakfast, Percy started barking in the backyard. I would say "barking like crazy," except that anyone who knows this dog or beagles as a breed is aware that "barking like crazy" is standard beagle operating procedure. This barking went up to eleven. Like, from how it sounded, I thought she was barking at the second coming of Jesus. Or maybe at a shark riding on an elephant's back.

So yelling rude things out the door didn't get her to be quiet, but it got Hank to ask, "Mama, did you say 'stupid dumb?'" Whoops. So I put on my sandals and went out to investigate. Bark bark bark. I could see nothing. Percy glanced at me over her shoulder like, "I am SO glad you're here." Bark bark. I stared and stared into the woods, looking for a deer, coyote, rabbit, Sasquatch, anything. Nothing. The hair stood up on Percy's back, and she actually inched sideways and stood behind a tree, stretching her neck around to howl, howl so loud it broke the world.

Finally, following her gaze, I saw the horror.

Eastern Box Turtle

Percy looked disgusted with me when I leaned down and picked up the turtle. I carried it up the hill and put it down close to the back porch, then I called for Hank to come see it. The dog was shut up on the porch by the baby gate, while Hank and I sat down about six feet away on the porch steps to look at the turtle. It had pulled its head and legs into its shell, but I figured that if we waited a minute he would come out again. So we waited.

And waited. The turtle did nothing. I wondered if it was completely shellshocked from the barking and the being picked up. I don't know how sensitive turtles are to trauma. So we sat. I had told Hank it was a Box Turtle, so he kept saying "Open your lid! Open your lid!" We waited, enjoying the breeze. The turtle sat, possibly enjoying the breeze. Percy scratched and whimpered softly, right on the other side of the baby gate.

A robin fussed at us from the dogwood tree, and I remembered that there is a robin's nest in the big camelia bush right by our porch. I had noticed it a couple of days ago. So by putting the turtle down and settling on the steps, we had startled the mother bird off of her nest. I said, "I'm sorry, as soon as this turtle comes out of his shell and walks for Hank, we'll be out of your way." She jumped down and started pacing in the mulch. I would have picked up the turtle and moved us all somewhere else, but I didn't want to restart the turtle clock.

The earth turned, Percy fretted, we sat. Hank said he was thirsty. I stepped over the baby gate and got some juice for him and a cup of coffee for myself. The bottom part of the turtle's shell looked like it had opened a millimeter, but it may have been a shadow. Hank mused, "Where is that turtle's mama?" I said, "Well, maybe that is the mama." He got a look on his face like, "Mom, in order for me to find that turtle relatable, it needs to be the baby, not the mama. Nothing worthy of narrating happens to mamas." So I said, "Or maybe he's on his way home to his mama." Interest renewed.

Turtle status: unchanged. I started to feel like we were upsetting an entire backyard ecosystem. Distressed mother robin, schizo-paranoid beagle, paralyzed/stubborn/snoozing turtle, inadequately SPF'd Hank, and me, in pajamas and pink snakeskin Birkenstocks. It was a majestic natural tableau. Remember that "Planet Earth" series? It was kind of like a scene from that. But with more tension. Something had to give. Hank broke the standoff by saying he needed to use the potty. I thought, "Okay, it's like in a restaurant. While you're in the bathroom, your food arrives. If we go inside, this turtle will just burst into activity."

And he did, sorta. When we came back out, he'd poked his head out that little bit, and we were able to go up to him and look at him, and I took his picture. Then the mother robin fluttered up from her nest again. She was like, "Really? You're back. Really. That's great." So I picked up the turtle and turned him over. Hank touched his shell on both sides, and even touched his little claws that were peeking out. Then I moved the turtle back to where I'd found him, because maybe he was going somewhere in particular.

Then I picked a tick off of Hank's shin, and then we went back inside and left everyone in peace.

Here ends the day's field study notes from our house. Are y'all outside playing? Have a good weekend, whatever you get up to!

17 comments:

Kelly said...

Your back yard is just full of all kinds of animals!

The Stiletto Mom said...

You should charge admission with all that wildlife going on. Throw in a crazy neighbor or two and you could create a steady income flow!

Jane said...

Hee hee! Shellshocked!

Cassie said...

"Open your lid!" That's adorable.

Your backyard is just teeming with fauna. You're like a Disney princess, only with less antagonists and better shoes.

Have a great weekend!

Ginny Marie said...

Hank sounds hilarious! That he wanted to relate to the turtle...so cute!

Casey said...

Ha, the turtle clock. Unfortunately, I know exactly what you mean. And birds are pissy when they're mad.

We've been playing outside a lot lately but it's getting too hot already. It's APRIL. Grr.

Keely said...

lol, "open your lid". THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE!

And, ewwwww ticks. They haven't started here yet. One year I let the dog loose for a 20 minute stroll at the wrong time of year and ended up picking 30 of the little parasites off her.

SJN said...

backyard nature at it's best!

bernthis said...

How amazing. Living in L.A. there is no chance of seeing that anytime soon in anyone's yard. As far as the beagle bark, I know it well. My neighbor used to have one, drove me nuts

Amy said...

I am a firm believer in the restaurant/bathroom theory!

And I love that kid--he comes up with just about the cutest stuff.

Michele Renee said...

Percy has more spunk than I thought (you had described him previously as pretty mellow). And when I saw the turtle photo I thought--of course--I have seen your photos of wicker turtles and needlepoint turtles so there is bound to be a real turtle at the house! I almost spewed my drink when I read Sasquatch!

The Things We Carried said...

Wow, a turtle out back? Sounds like a fun place to live.

Bex said...

wow! i felt like i was right there with you. that's cool stuff;

Michele said...

Nice learning experience for Hank. Tics = yuck.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Lucky you! Mutual of Omaha from your back porch. Me? An oppossum scarfing down catfood.

Drama Queen Jenner said...

My 3-y-o was carrying around a lizard at the park the other day. I thought. Turned out to be a plastic one someone had left. I was glad, because it was all stiff. I can handle live tiny lizards, but petrified ones are another story.

bsouth said...

Sounds like a perfect morning to me!