Friday, June 25, 2010

Turtles and Other Slow Creatures

Turtles have always held a certain fascination for me. It could be their strong armor that makes me envious, or maybe it’s the patience they display in their everyday lives. Turtles never seem to be in a hurry, and are impervious to the stresses of daily living. Nothing bothers them. As they crawl across the landscape or lounge on a half submerged log, you would never know that their amphibious neighbors had been keeping them up all night or that their burrow was in foreclosure as a result of a housing slump at the frog pond. They are always calm; slow, sluggish, but calm.

Elsie Holiday with one of her Turtle Baskets.

Turtles play an important part in Navajo culture; their shells are highly valued for beads and are also used for medicine cups in ceremonies. Navajo healers often tell the story of how Monsterslayer destroyed Kicking Rock Monster. Once the task was accomplished, Monsterslayer went down to the river, where Kicking Rocks Monster’s children lived, and killed all his offspring except Turtle and Alligator.

When asked if these survivors would promise never to hurt anyone again, Alligator replied, “I am not sure.” Turtle, on the other hand, agreed to be helpful rather than hurtful. As a result, Turtle was told he would be used for medicine by man and that his shell would be used to drink from during sings. Alligator, being uncooperative, was banished to what is now Florida and never again seen in the Southwest.

In spite of my fondness for these traditional stories, in reality it is likely their speed that makes me feel a great kinship for these creatures. I have often been reminded of this lately as I struggle to regain my running legs.

As an incoming freshman at San Juan High School next fall, Kira has decided she wants to be part of the cross country team. This being the case, her coach has advised her that she needs to run 200 miles this summer to ensure her success. Since Jana does not claim to enjoy running, the job of coaching Kira has fallen to me. “My knee,” I protested, pointing to the torn meniscus in my right leg. “No dice,” I was told as a knee brace was handed over. “I haven’t run in three years,” I proclaimed. “It’s time you got started, you’ll feel so much better,” came the reply.

After the first few runs, I hobbled around the trading post like an 80 year old man. My muscles ached, my back ached and my pride also ached. “See,” I said to Jana, “this will kill me.” “Did you pay the life insurance premium last month?” she joked. A mile and a half seemed like a marathon, and the thought of eventually jogging eight miles made me quake.

We are now, however, one month into our adventure and things are looking up. Big Daddy Turtle, as I have been renamed, can generally keep up with Kira through a three or four mile course, although my sprinting capabilities are mostly shot so she universally beats me at the end.

This morning we arose early and were on the trail by 6:30 a.m. The air was cool , the breeze gentle and I was remembering how much I loved jogging along the road that leads to St. Christopher’s Mission when three deer jumped out and loped across the hay field. As they faded into the distance, I could almost hear them chanting, “Daddy Turtle, Daddy Turtle, Daddy Turtle.” “I’ll be back,” I shouted as they disappeared over the levee. Kira pulled out her ear buds, gave me a strange look and said, “What did you say?” “Oh nothing,” I answered.

With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

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