Monday, January 24, 2005

Turtle Stones

"Dark Reef" by Michael Cross Posted by Hello

And we must begin now: by cunning, by consultation with the stars and conversations with the wind; by withdrawal if necessary—to a rock pile, or a woodland of stumps and ferns; to another place, one surrounded by bone and tissue, next door to a steady heart.” [“Roots”, John Haines, Quarry West 1 (Winter 1971-72.)]

It was obvious Sunday morning that something needed to be done about the turtles. My son Alberte, six, insisted that his turtles, one-year-olds, needed swimming room, next to the fish in his tank. My attempt to reason with him was to no avail; it was fine that they didn’t have brachia as long as they could swim as well as they did. “But, son, they need a resting place, a safe place to watch the day go by. They’re not fish.” He thought about it for a second, I saw it in his eyes, but knew better than to say it. (“No shit, dad. They’re turtles!”) But never mind, I knew, they either swam or sank.

I needed stones, say, palm-size, to put in the tank so the turtles could climb and rest. Why punish them swimming forever. Our beach, because it’s right there behind the house so the children insist that it is their place, an idea which I wasn’t about to counter, was filled with kelp, green and brown, from yesterday’s gale. Yesterday was winter. Today the season had changed, like the flip of coin, making us leave our jackets home. “We’re going rock-picking for the turtles,” my daughter Carme, seven, said to the neighbor, who didn’t know much what to say: “Seems like a good day for that.”

Watching the children on the beach, climbing rocks, dangerous ones for them—“bigger than Everest”—I sensed their feeling of place. The smell of salt and kelp; the kids’ tiny steps on the sand. The baby crabs. (Wordsworth’s “pleasure feeling of blind love, / The pleasure which there is in life itself.”) We picked small stones like Japanese gardeners considering curves and flat surfaces: tipping equilibrium from a turtle’s point of view. The children picked fine specimens, some like quartz, jagged and crystalline, others simply dark and round; little boulders tossed by many a storm.

We didn’t agree on the final count. “We don’t need so many. The turtles need room to swim in the tank.” Sure, dad.

I climbed the hill back to the house, a heavy load of stones tipping against my stomach and chest. The neighbor continued with his garden pruning. “Stones…for the turtles,” I said. “Sure, turtle stones,” he said, “nice day for that I suppose.”


  • Beautiful story . . . beautiful painting.

    By Blogger Peter, at 7:02 AM  

  • Linda foto e lindo texto (o que entendín ;-) Lástima non poder "ler" o que di teu fillo Alberte en galego... Un bico

    By Blogger AQUI, at 1:20 PM  

  • Fantastic recreation, Alberto! I couldn't imagine not having my own similar stories now that I'm also a father. I've been compiling a list of words that my daughter seems to find fascinating, spelling them phonetically in the manner she pronounces them, and in all, trying to capture her excitement of discovery. I would guess as they (kids) age, the stories replace the individual words.

    By Blogger Jordan, at 9:46 PM  

  • Thank you, Peter. Just a bit of lazy Sunday sentimentalism.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 12:04 AM  

  • This is lovely, Alberto. Make sure you save it to hard copy somewhere.

    By Blogger Suzanne, at 12:09 AM  

  • Nada. Que estou feito un carro de mimos. Paseando pola praia cos nenos, carrexando pedriñas para as tartarugas que non tiñan onde tomar o sol e ían morrer afogadiñas. Salveinas pero nin un anaco de agradecemento. Graciñas e bicos.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 12:16 AM  

  • Hi, Jordan. Children are amazing. That wasn’t the complete tale. Then they decide to pick blue muscles for lunch, but I had nothing to carry them with to the house. So I end up taking my t-shirt off and making a bag out of it in order to maintain peace and keep revolution at bay. (Delicious, though. Steamed and with a dash of lemon.)

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 12:17 AM  

  • Thanks, Suzanne. You mean blogger isn’t forever? Shucks.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 12:23 AM  

  • Alberto-- please add me to the list of admirers of this post!--it's wonderful indeed. my place is full of all kinds of things the kids have collected, as well as all the books i keep around... thanks for posting such a warmly evocative piece.

    chris murray

    By Blogger chris, at 2:22 AM  

  • Nice telling, Alberto. And a striking photo. Both made a tired morning more pleasant.

    By Blogger Sara, at 4:17 PM  

  • Thanks, Chris. All the work you’re doing and still you have time to drop in?! What’s wrong with my energy levels? I have to follow-up with you on a comment you made, but by the time I get there I’m heading straight to the archives. Your too much and too kind.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 10:48 PM  

  • Tricked you, Sarah. It’s not a photo. Michael Cross is quite deceiving that way. A very talented painter.

    Thanks for sneaking in.

    By Blogger A.R.B., at 10:50 PM  

  • No. I meant print it out, file it, laminate it for goodness sake. Unfortunately, after the Computer Crash of Fall '04, I speak from experience. (wink)

    By Blogger Suzanne, at 11:55 PM  

  • I see that now. I see it so well now that I don't see how I saw it otherwise before. My eyes are easily led.

    By Blogger Sara, at 7:23 PM  

  • Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

    I have a pulitzer prize winnermerchant site called Holden Tees. We're a small company and we sell shirts and stuff.

    Come and check it out if you get time

    -Holden Tees

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