Three days ago, as the sun shined brightly, a thrilled crowd watched three sea turtles cross Isle of Palms sand and return to the Atlantic Ocean.
Fifty-three years ago, as the moon beamed fully, an excited Cub Scout pack watched a loggerhead turtle emerge from the waves onto Kiawah Island, slowly but surely advance to a beach spot close to our hiding place behind the dunes, then dig a hole and lay more than a hundred eggs into it.
The much more recent spectacle reconfirmed the success of the South Carolina Aquarium’s sea turtle rescue program. The long-ago adventure gave local little boys new insight into not just the cycle of life but the wonder of the wild.
We saw that turtle do her motherly duty way back when Kiawah was still untouched by big houses, fancy hotels and world-class golf courses.
We weren’t the only Lowcountry youngsters lucky enough to witness that and other compelling nature’s ways. Many of us learned lasting respect — and concern — for not just sea turtles but the vast array of other vulnerable animals. That includes the raccoons we wide-eyed Scouts saw lurking in the brush behind us. Those scavengers were waiting to do some digging of their own toward a fresh turtle-egg feast.
More than a half-century later, those wily varmints pose much less threat than rampant coastal development does to sea turtles. Yet the turtles endure — as does our kind’s fascination with them (see another story about one on the Isle of Palms on this page).
As a co-worker told me Wednesday, turtles’ design — now you see their heads, now you don’t — exudes an aura of “wonderful mystery.”
And as our proliferating species has crowded others out of their comfort and survival zones, we have developed even softer spots for not just hard-shelled turtles but other far less cute critters.
For instance, this news in Wednesday’s paper riled readers: “Osprey shot by pellet gun has to be put down.”
And while a column this week by Bloomberg View’s Kavitha Davidson congratulates American Pharoah on his Triple Crown, she also writes: “Despite its blue-blood reputation, the ‘sport of kings’ is really just the sport of vice, kept afloat by a system of gambling and doping that amounts to institutionalized animal abuse.”
So would horses be better off slaughtered to feed dogs — and the French?
Meanwhile, Caitlyn rates the vast outpouring of support she has received. That is, Caitlyn the local canine whose muzzle was taped shut. (No offense to fans of Vanity Fair cover girl Caitlyn Jenner.)
Back to turtle charisma:
Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” teaches the folly of haste and arrogance and the virtue of persistence.
OK, so a tortoise isn’t a turtle. Still, assorted turtles are admirable fictional characters. For instance, consider this illuminating tribute to 1995’s “Gamera: Guardian of the Universe” from the late Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize:
“Gamera has starred in nine films in 32 years, but has never attained the stardom of Godzilla, perhaps because of speciesism, which prejudices us to prefer dinosaurs to turtles. Gamera lives for much of the time beneath the ocean (or, as the movie refers to it, ‘The Pacific — Ocean of Death!’), where he shows up on radar screens as a giant atoll. But when Gamera is needed, the atoll begins to glow, and (I can’t stop myself) emits rays. And then Gamera flies through the skies, powered by jet outlets on his underside.”
No, real turtles don’t have “jet outlets.” However, the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” don’t need such propulsion to deliver subtly subversive repartee, including:
Donatello: Bossa Nova!
Michelangelo: Dude, “Bossa Nova”?
Donatello: Chevy Nova?
So if you’re going too fast, as so many of us are, follow the noble turtle’s patient lead and slow down.
But if you’re stuck in your shell, summon the courage, as turtles must, to venture out and onto the beach, into the ocean — and beyond.
And heed this advice from New York Times “This Life” columnist/author Bruce Feiler:
“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.