A few weeks ago, this mysterious being appeared just a few steps from my door...
Meet Mama, a female snapping turtle. She seemed to have either fallen from the sky or sprouted up from the earth. She arrived in her spot with intention. I thought I saw her laying eggs as I watched her, but then I thought maybe it was just her legs moving. I was mesmerized.
Reptiles fascinate me. When I see one, especially so close like this, I feel powerfully linked to all of time - to dinosaurs! I watched her carefully and took some pictures. My daughter didn't want to leave Mama. I didn't think she could move too far too fast, but within a half an hour of our departure, she was gone. It seemed so sudden that I thought maybe I had imagined the entire thing.
With the help of a friend, I learned that this mama was most likely laying her eggs by my door. She dug a hole, deposited her offspring, and returned to the creek behind our home. The process is awe-inspiring, and while she did it all on instinct, it was deliberate - thoughtful even.
I learned that as one of the oldest reptiles, the turtle was a symbol of Mother Earth to the Native Americans. The turtle is a reminder that Mother Earth provides for all of our needs.
As I dug deeper with Mama Turtle, I was also taking stock of the end of another school year. I was thinking about my mistakes - like the music night we completely forgot about, and the decisions I made about the next year - moving my son to a new school and enrolling my daughter in full day kindergarten. None of these decisions were taken lightly, and yet I wondered if I had thought of everything - explored every option? Prepared for every possible outcome?
Sometimes I feel so unqualified to be making such weighty decisions. I wonder if I'm not doing enough to help my children navigate their lives? And if I am doing enough, is it too much? Am I overbearing? Will they be equipped to leave home when it is time? Will they remember to chew with their mouths closed when I am not there to remind them? Being a parent is so hard. For me. I think it is hard for a lot of people, and I am not sure we always feel comfortable admitting that. I know a lot of mamas spend a lot of time wondering and worrying about the choices they are making that affect their children.
In the midst of my day and my reflecting, I couldn't stop thinking about Mama. A highly esteemed reptile, she is so revered that she is thought to symbolize the mother of ALL mothers - Mother Earth. How could that be? How could a creature who lays her eggs and leaves her babies to make their own way back to the water represent this divine Mother? It wasn't adding up in my mama mind as I spent the day wondering where I had held on too tightly and where I still needed to let go.
I thought about my sister, who had just delivered her second child safely and lovingly into the world, and how she and her new son would be closely connected for many months to come. He dependent on her for everything... Her wondering if she was doing everything she possibly could to meet his needs and help him ease into life outside the womb. With him every single step of the way, she would never dream of leaving him to make his own way in the world. That is what it means to be a human mama - we are gifted in the art of wondering an worrying, and in holding on and learning when to let go.
By the end of the day, I realized that Mama Turtle might be one of my greatest teachers. Maybe leaving her babies to make their own way back to the water is the bravest thing a mom can do for her young. It is sometimes hard to accept this, but the truth is, each of my children is on his or her very own journey. And, I am on mine. Much of what we do, especially while they are children, is done together, but eventually they will be left to walk their paths without me by their sides.
I can hold on tight and let go again, I can intervene and stand back, and I will continue to wonder and worry, but the truth is no matter what I do to help guide my children, it is ultimately up to them to make it back to the water.
Thank you Mama Turtle. xo