The turtle

Self work is a lot of work and is sometimes hard, lonely and slow.

It reminds me of this turtle.

There had just been a summer storm and the smell of fresh rain lingered in the air while rays of sun started to break through the gray clouds. The ground was still wet and warm and because of both there was a hazy mist that covered the entire trail.

I needed to be on my bike that day. I was grateful my work shift ended the same time the storm clouds cleared. I clocked out quickly and I grabbed my helmet hoping to soak up the last couple hours of daylight.  I was halfway to Furman before I realized this little turtle on the trail. Alone. In the middle of it all. Bikes whizzing by. Never slowing down. Did they see him? This tiny turtle in the middle of the road. I slowed down and I greeted my new little friend and asked him where here was going, like I was expecting a response. “Hi little turtle, where are you headed today?”

He didn’t move so.   I didn’t move with him for a few moments. Watching them carefully look ahead to where they were planning on going. The amount of effort it took for them to do just that, moving barely anything at all. I saw both struggle and peace in the perseverance at the same exact time.

I felt like that turtle that day. I’ve felt like this turtle many days before this moment on the trail and many days since. I was out there looking for something that day and found him. A reminder. He was out on that day just trying to get where he was going even though everyone and everything was moving around him so quickly. Cyclists passed us by. Walkers and people pushing strollers and walking dogs effortlessly passed. This turtle remained. At first glance it may look like he’s not doing anything at all but when I looked closer I saw him never not working hard to get where he needed to go but just not going as fast as everyone and everything around them. I wished him a safe journey and I continued on mine.

I rode around the pond at Furman thinking about the hard work I’m doing, the work I’ve done. It’s hard. It’s slow. I thought about the turtle. The sun started to set and I started to head back home.

On my way back I passed the turtle. There he was, in the same exact place I left him. He hadn’t moved at all since I saw him last but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working hard.

I was working hard too. Some days feeling like I wasn’t moving.  But working the entire time. Just like this turtle.

The next day another summer storm and that misty magic moment after the skies cleared that called me to the trail. So I rode. Until I slowed down in the same spot as yesterday. There my was the turtle. In the same spot. He hadn’t moved at all. Not even a little bit. I started to worry. Was he ok? Is something wrong? Is he even alive? Why hasn’t he moved? I wanted to help him. Pick him up and take him wherever he wanted to go. A whole day later he hadn’t moved.  At all. But then I thought about the effort it took for him probably just to remain. To be in the exact same spot as the day before as everything and everyone moved around him. He’s trying so hard. He had come so far for not traveling any physical distance from yesterday. He was probably tired. I’m sometimes tired from working so hard too. He was alone.  I didn’t want to leave him. I wanted to protect him and I worried he’d be run over but- he remained. So I wished him a safe journey and continued on mine.  I thought-there have been many days I’ve been that turtle. In the same place for a long time but working so hard just to be there. Not being able to do anything else. To just be where I am. Feeling along while doing it. Especially on the days I wasn’t moving as quickly as the world around me.

I rode on. Around Furman and back again. On the ride back I could tell he had moved a little this time as I passed him. Just a little, not much, but I thought about the effort it took him to get there.

I thought about the effort it took me to get here.

The next day was cooler clear and sunny, like the heavy storms from the days before it had helped make it that way, make it extra beautiful now. I thought about the storms in my life. Preparing me for where I was now. I thought about the turtle. Exactly where he was, where I left him and I was curious where he was today. I hit the trail to see. I wanted to check on him, my new little friend. I got to the spot where I had seen him the last two days and he was gone. I rode back and forth a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed him and I was in the right place. I was. He wasn’t there. He had moved. Across the whole trail. Twice the distance he had traveled the two days before. He moved. When he was ready. At his own pace. Alone on his journey. Moving however he needed to whenever he needed to. The world moving by so fast. He moved at his own pace. But he got there.

He made it to the other side.

I carefully looked ahead at the trail ahead of me to where I was going and put my feet back on the pedals. I thought about the turtle. I wished him a safe journey and continued on mine.

I felt like that turtle that day.



Sarah Polite