Saturday, October 6, 2007


I have continued to read (slowly--I do not have as much time to read as I would like) the short stories of Philippa Pearce. I read one yesterday, "Fresh," that I felt was absolute perfection. Quiet, with almost the texture of velvet, it reveals a child's first awareness of death. It moved me deeply. I know not everyone likes that kind of story, but I do.

This morning, going for a walk, I found another small piece of perfection. I live in an area of vast suburban development, with little of the natural left except arranged plantings, but on the path I take I do pass, at a slight distance, a small patch of woods.

I saw something dark on the sidewalk--a stick or a leaf, I thought, or a bit of unsavory dog business. I almost continued right past, but stopped mid-stride. Could it possibly be? I looked closely. It was.

A tiny-tiny box turtle, a baby, a perfect miniature. No longer than the space between the tip of my thumb and the first knuckle--maybe an inch--though rounder, with the high, arched shell of a box turtle. More overall brown than an adult shell though, with no hint of dark red or brush of yellow, without any shine or gleam. For a moment I thought it was dead, like those squashed, petrified frogs you see on the road, but then it moved its leg. I picked it up and it immediately tucked its legs in and shut its eyes tight. Knowing it would get squashed for sure on the sidewalk, I moved it to the edge of the wood patch, tucking it under a leaf. I worried I had put it in exactly the wrong spot, right where an animal would find it to add it to its breakfast, but I did what I could.


Cheryl said...

That is beautiful, Kathleen! You described that little turtle, and the wonder of finding her/him, so well I could almost see it. How lovely to find such a little turtle on the sidewalk--and kind of you to try to move her/him out of harm's way. I would have done the same thing. (We have snails that move from our garden onto our sidewalk and stairs, and I move them back into the garden because otherwise they can get crushed.)

Your description of Pearce's story, too, makes it sound like an important, moving read.

Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson said...

Thank you, Cheryl. I am glad you could see the little guy, too. I am not sure I could move a snail around,though, without running into the ick factor. But I will remember your example. And maybe carry an index card around with me for scooping purposes . . .

Cheryl said...

I pick the snails up gently by their shell; if they won't detach themselves from the sidewalk or stairs, I won't move them. But yes, an index card could work. :)