This summer I had one of those amazing times when all else seemed to stand still in a moment of amazement. Swimming out into the bay at Governor’s Beach in Cyprus one gentle, calm morning, I notice something come to the surface just a few meters away. At first, I’m a little afraid. It seemed quite big! Maybe it could attack…. SILLY! Finally reason and a little courage take over and I swim over to where it surfaced just in time to realise that it’s a turtle. Oh wow! I can’t find words. I swim with the turtle for fully thirty minutes, watching it graze, dive and glide and then it somehow gets away from me. I’m left with gratitude and an exciting story to tell.
And it wasn’t the only sighting either. Found out there are at least three of them. They’ve stayed all summer. Gentle, calm and unruffled by bathers, boats or outboard motors. By now I feel like I ‘know’ them. I start to think about their life. Day by day munching sea-grass and coming up for air. Grazing the whole seabed to find breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then, one morning, a question pops unrequested into my mind: What happens when the food supply runs out for the season? It would be a long way to the next available patch of edibles. Surely they won’t stay here all winter. Wonder where they go? And then…. a more gnawing question, what if they can’t survive the journey to the next place? Do they just stay here and get hungrier as autumn pulls in?
I don’t know about you, but I realise that my mind is a little absurd sometimes, just taking off on a journey of tangents and trajectories. But here my thoughts somehow lead me to consider my willingness to stay around in situations that eventually will run out of ‘life-food’. I can see that although it is hard to move away from a good grazing patch, I need to. I have to move out from safety into risk sometimes. I can’t just hang around indefinitely in dead-end behaviour, relationships which are running dry, a job that is OK, an activity that once was fresh but now seems somewhat stale, or an acceptable level of life that was once good but now feels second-rate. Sometimes I need to get hungry enough to move on.
The turtles will sooner or later leave the bay. That’s for sure. They’re driven onwards by the need to eat and breed. Whatever the distance to the next buffet plot, they have to make the decision and set-off. Instinct doesn’t allow them to stay, whatever the peril of letting go of the good for the maybe better. Conversely, my instinct is all too often to stay long, over long in one place. I don’t mean I need to quit on what is important, strong and sustaining of life. I need to hold these things, but become hungry enough to move on from the tired, over-grazed and short-term and look for ‘food’ that will really sustain, even if it requires a journey, some obstacles and a little temporary hardship along the way. The risk of slow starvation must propel me to look for better food. Thanks for the lesson, turtles!