Partaking in Life

Sunset dinner on the Gulf of Mexico

Beginning my retreat three days after the rest of the artists,  I was anxious to fit everything into my first day. Swimming in the gulf, walking by the river trails, drawing, and figuring out the kitchen were only a few of the activities that quickly filled my day.   Since I would not be present for the Welcome Dinner, I was informed that a second dinner was scheduled when I arrived.  The dinner was to coincide with an impromptu turtle watch.  You see… this is the peak of nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles in Florida.  Many of the nests were due to hatch and it just so happened to be a full moon.  We were going to patrol the beach through the night and call each other if a turtle was spotted laying eggs or baby turtles were emerging from the nest on their journey to the sea.

The evening began with an inspiring performance by the resident music composer, followed by a sunset dinner on the beach.  We laughed, ate, got to know each other,  partaking of a common thread of nurturing the creative spark within each of us ….And we learned about the turtles.  At 11 PM, we began our shifts, and just before midnight we were called that a mother turtle was laying eggs.  Walking briskly through the sand, lit only by the full moon, there she was… as big as my dining room table, methodically flipping sand over the eggs, ignoring the presence of

Baby turtles returning to the sea.

mesmerized humans….And when she was done, we witnessed her journey back to the sea… swept into the surf…the waves engulfing her large body like a familiar blanket. 

Sea turtles do not meander.  They return to the spot where they were hatched many years prior.  They emerge from the depths of the sea, walk a straight path to the nest, propelled by their large flippers, dig a nest and lay their eggs.  When the task is complete, they make a tight U-turn, and walk  a straight path back to the surf.

I returned to my room and slept right through my 5 am shift.  Waking at 7:00, I came downstairs, assuming the turtle watch was over and everyone went to sleep.  Suddenly the door burst open and the “leader” of our adventure was ecstatic with anticipation…. Apparently the nest closest to our house was overdue, and the sound of live hatchlings was detected under the surface.  The volunteers who oversee the turtle nests needed to go in and excavate the nest, allowing those that have hatched to return to the sea, and removing those who did not survive.  We all ran out to witness the advent of the baby turtles, and help usher them to their home in the surf.  As we followed these small creatures, we watched them flow into the surf the same way the mother turtles return to the water.  What a privilege to partake in this amazing cycle of life,  for just a brief moment… to know that as one life may end its journey… many new ones will begin theirs, instinctively continuing the ritual that was determined since time began.