Okay. After last week being so full of sadness -- what with the continuing coverage of the Big Thunder accident at Disneyland, the second anniversary of 9/11, then Leon Janzen's sudden passing, followed closely by John Ritter's untimely death -- I am fairly certain that JHM readers have had their fill of tragedy.
At least I know I have.
So that why I've decided that we all need a break. At least for a day or so. From any and all sad stories. Which is why -- today -- we're going to talk about snapping turtles.
Why snapping turtles? Well, to explain ... Nancy and I live 'way the hell out in the woods of New Hampshire. On 11½ acres of land that overlooks this enormous wetlands.
And -- for tens of thousands of years now -- the snapping turtles that live in that swamp have been pulling themselves out of the muck each spring. They then make a slow, labored trek up to the top of the hill where our house is currently located. Where they then dig a hole and lay their eggs.
Now some homeowners might get upset at the very idea of having their lawn get torn up every June by slow moving reptiles. But not me.
And why not? Because ... well ... you see, as a kid, I was absolutely fascinated with dinosaurs. And some of these turtles -- particularly the really enormous old snappers (the ones with shells that measure 1½ - 2 feet across that are covered with thick green algae. Why for? Because this is the one time each year that these bottom dwelling behemoths actually emerge from the depths and come out on land) -- really are living, breathing dinosaurs.
So -- in order to get an annual up-close look at these lethal looking creatures -- I happily cede control of my lawn over to the snappers for the first two weeks of June. To date, it's been a fairly harmonious relationship. (Okay. There was that one particularly obnoxious turtle seemed determined to lay her eggs in the passenger compartment of our Ford Explorer. Which meant that I had to shoo this snapper away using a trash can lid and a snow shovel ... but -- beyond that -- things have been just fine, thank you very much.)
Mind you, given all the eggs that get laid and buried in our lawn each June ... it just stands to reason that -- every September -- there'll be at least one morning when we'll look down our driveway and it will appear as if some of the rocks in the road have suddenly come to life.
These -- of course -- are the baby snappers. Who -- having survived a summer full of skunks who were constantly sniffing about, looking for turtle nests to dig up -- have hatched out of their eggs and then clawed their way to the surface. Then - following ... what? I don't know. Instinct? Genetic imprinting? Or maybe just the sound of distant water? -- they scramble down our driveway and head back for the wetlands.
Well, given that Nancy and I have very soft hearts (which is rather fitting given that we both have rather soft heads), we don't like the idea of driving down our driveway and accidentally squishing any baby turtles. Which is why I find myself on turtle safety patrol duty for much of September. Walking up and down our driveway (particularly just before Nancy heads out to do any errands), clutching a plastic dustpan. Making sure that I pick up all of these quarter-sized creatures off the ground and get them out of harm's way before our SUV comes rolling through.
Of course, once our car had gone by, I put the baby snapping turtles back down on the ground and let them get on their way. Hoping that I haven't disrupted their routines too much. That -- when the time comes, 5 to 10 years from now, when these snapping turtles finally feel the need to go lay some eggs -- they'll remember where they have to go ... not just the big scary guy who suddenly picked them up in order to keep these tiny turtles from getting crushed by a car.
I don't know why. But last week -- in the middle of that seemingly endless stream of sad news -- I found this routine (I.E. being on Snapping Turtle Safety Patrol) to be oddly comforting. That -- in the midst of all that death and sadness last week -- I was at least able to keep 68 baby snapping turtles from accidentally getting squished.
In the big scheme of things, I don't know if this action will actually mean a lot. And I know that a lot of you probably aren't big snapping turtle fans. (You know, if I were a particularly mean guy, this would be a really great spot to insert an Al Lutz joke. But it's far too early on a Monday morning to be taking cheap shots. So why don't we just let that opportunity slide, okay?) So the idea of rescuing even one or two of these creatures -- let alone 68 -- may seem to be ... well ... just bizarre.
Me? I just thought that it was significant that -- in this time of too much bad news and so much sadness -- that life went on. That -- sure -- it's tough when we lose a loved one or a friend or just someone that we really admired ... but Nature doesn't care about stuff like that. That -- in spite of how terrible the news was all of last week -- the sun still came up every morning.
That's why I like living out here in the country. Where you're surrounded by all of these constant reminders about how life -- even in the face of death and sadness -- just keeps going. Like those little baby snapping turtles in my driveway. Or when the Swamp Maples suddenly turned fire engine red late last week. Signaling that Fall is finally officially on its way here in New England.
That why I sometimes worry about some of you JHM readers. You folks who spend far too much time in front of your computer. Who -- whenever they're in the cyber world -- can never entirely let go of their sadness. Or who always seem to be nursing a grudge.
My advice to these folks is: Turn off your computer occasionally. There is (after all) more to life than just sitting in front of a monitor, pounding away on a keyboard, you know. So go outside today and take a walk, okay? Go connect with nature and/or some really-for-real people.
Which -- now that I think about it -- is really excellent advice. So I'm now going to take turn off this damned computer and head outside. Maybe even join our rotten cat, Trudy, for a stroll down the driveway. To see if there are any more baby snapping turtles have popped up out of the ground who need to be saved.
Here's hoping that it's a much better week for all of us, news-wise. Okay?