Saturday, July 29, 2006

Desert Tortoise

parts of notebook entry last Sunday, 7/23/06, before the rain came later in the week:

goddesses visited this home. Desert tortoise came by early evening after I returned from a day of hiking.

I’ve lived here six years and never saw a tortoise in this area, much less my neighborhood. I didn’t even know tortoises lived here in the city or surrounding desert until a friend mentioned them this very afternoon during our hike, during a larger conversation about wildlife in EPT. He expressed, with great concern and frustration, how the tortoises are disappearing and how they used to be in greater abundance not too long ago.

A few hours later a desert tortoise happened to walk by my front door window for the cats to see and alert me.

I remember the crema de tortuga sold in Ensenada. Thick yellowish tortuga lotion in plastic containers. Stories of sea turtles eaten during Lent, as if they were a type of fish.

When I lived on Cape Cod one winter, I remember hearing how sea turtles were washing up, cold-stunned, by the dozens during NorEasters. I was sad for days. I tried writing poems about them that never materialized. What’s material. The words on the page. The shells on the shore. I am saddened by heaven’s musical instruments. I watched the desert tortoise today and felt more than language.

Turtle water. Tortoise earth.

Ancient tortoise rains patience. Ten or so circles on back, 10 beauties, 10 beauties like a sun-star rippling on the ocean. I fear feeling so much like carapace, need tortoise.

Feared water, loved it once inside a body of it, wave killed me, I remember the fear of jetty. He said jetty and I had no idea what that meant. He from elsewhere, me So. Cali. The tortoise has been living for thousands of years, longer than the Jornada Mogollon rock art at Hueco with its red nature-paint lasting in caves. Small oak trees live near water source edges. Coyotl’s tail disappearing into foliage. I miss the creatures who live with me every day. They too are beautiful. Microchip them, they say, so we scan them at the self-serve line that’s always broken after shopping for the least expensive wholesale food. Tlaloc, you either bring suffering or luck. I'm imagining blue sky and turkey vultures circling the maze for jackrabbits, a ground squirrel scurrying across a dirt road with a squirrel-child riding on its back. Creosote blooming yellow. I see that we need to open up the conversation. Look into the middens and catalogue what we, what I, have taken for greed of beauty.

I don’t profess to know the secrets of spirituality but I do know that I trust my instincts more and more and I don’t question them as much as I used to. I used to think something was wrong with me for suspecting others might have ulterior motives or were possibly sexist, power-hungry, underhanded, racist, etc. I wanted to be wrong. I still want to be wrong but I give more trust to initial and continued observation, feeling, instead of giving more power to the oppressive actions of others by feeling such oppression as my own shortcoming. I remember the small cacti like an army of penises. I remember the oak tree shells, some kind of acorns. I remember the swallows lived above a Tlaloc and its lightening designs. I remember the snake painted under the two twin masks that look like kachinas. I remember pain. At the thought of sweet releases. No release but sadness. It was all the color pink or bumblegum yellow like cactus flowers growing out of the most spiked misnamed succulent.

I remember the red and yellow and black pictographs.

Caves where the spirit rises to music. Caves the sun can’t hatch. And dirt where tortoises lay eggs in burrows where the sun reaches and heats through and through, where the sex of the hatchling depends on the incubation temperature, not chromosomes, females requiring more heat. Is this chance or feeling?


Suzanne said...

I *love* the way you write. Thank you for sharing this.

Suzanne said...

Or maybe it's the way you think that I love?

Emmy said...

Thank you, Suzanne. The tortoise encounter was one of those it can't be a coincidence experiences. I was in shock and thrilled. I keep looking for the tortoise in my yard but haven't seen her/him since, although there are some bullfrogs or barking frogs barking outside my window right now.

And your second post is great... very philosophical! I'm going to think about it all day.

Sheryl said...

And the last shall be first and the first last.

Emmy said...

Wise quote, Sheryl, and apt... thank you for adding another layer of thought to the tortoise meditation. I do appreciate how solitary reflection, on the blog, leads to community. I am grateful to you and suzanne for helping me see and reflect beyond and beyond. Makes me want to continue adding more and more, incorporating your voices into the inquiry somehow. Maybe someday I will. Thank you.