Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nest 51

Turtle season is in full swing at Guana. I did make an ill-advised promise not to bore the readers of Eat Here with this detail, and am still avoiding writing about The Spill. I can't help myself, though: this week, we noted a nest labeled "N 51". It was there Tuesday of this week, when we went to the beach as we always do for peace and comfort. It had not been there Sunday.

Judging by the tracks, we surmised the female turtle had made the long, slow, danger-frought trek Monday night during the high tide. By the time of our visit the tide had fallen way out, and the evidence of her determined incursion to the very beach, perhaps, of her own birth could be seen a long way out. I was standing at the low tide line when I took this. It's a phone camera so the quality isn't great, but you get the idea; if you look closely you can see the nest, marked that very morning by the Turtle Patrol. It's a long way from where I was standing. When I got close enough I could see a spot where it looked like she might have rested. "Oh, surely she did," Rodney said, "If you've ever seen a turtle walk up from the water and dig her nest...they look like the need to rest." And this raised another topic, one from the history we share as members of families and communities where conservation and the protection of natural resources were notions seldom considered, and when they were the tone ranged from humor to skepticism to outright sarcasm. Here's a photo found in Rodney's family archives (read: shoebox) taken in 1968 of a just-laid clutch of eggs in a turtle nest. You can't see it in this faded old second-generation photo, but they are definitely speckled, perhaps even leatherback turtle eggs. He remembers clearly seeing, more than once, turtles coming up onto the beach in the South Ponte Vedra/North Vilano area, and recalls the casual indifference of his parents and their friends as the parties carried on into the night, while the turtles fulfilled their destiny, unchanged by millennia.
Fast-forwarding to the current century (this week), this photo show the imprints of the turtle's flippers on the sand and coquina, marking her deliberate progress. I hope she laid a hundred eggs that night, and I hope those eggs beat the odds. I know I've written about it already. I know I promised not to be boring on the topic, and most of all, I know I vowed not to write about The Spill, and I won't, directly, mostly because the thought weighs too heavily for my heart to bear without wild unbounded grief: an outward and visible sign, as may resonate with you if you went to Catholic school as a kid, of our inward and spiritual positive and absolute heartbreak. But I can give you the turtles, people. I can tell you that this week saw the marking of Nest 51. Here it is, finally, right where you can walk to beach and see it yourself (with apologies to my far-away friends and readers). Rodney and I are told that the Guana Turtle patrol has marked one leatherback nest so far, and more loggerhead nests than I have numbers for. Say your best and most honest prayers to the Great Mother or God or Yahweh or the Great Spirit, or to whatever language frames and constitutes the Holiest of Holies when you lay down your head at night. Pray for the tiny, brand new and ancient beings dwelling in the small shells, nestled in the warm white sand, cradled in Nest 51, wrapped in the summer solstice.

Eat Here offers its sincere thanks to Jake, Linda, John, Scott and all the other people - employees and volunteers - who keep Guana safe for all manner of wild things, including unhatched baby turtles and people.


  1. You need to read "Search For The Great Turtle Mother" by Jack Rudloe.

  2. How could you not talk about the spill? It's your backyard and obviously such an important part of your life.

    The turtles for you are like the spring birds for me. Full of hope and meaning and an anchor to predictablity when life is going for the one-two sucker punch


  3. Angela, thank you for kind words on my blog, Oliver di Place. This is my first time here, and this is just a great piece of writing. If you ever feel the urge to write about music, and don't think it would fit here, let me know and we'll see what we can do.

  4. Darius, welcome to Eat Here, and thank YOU for the kind comments. As for writing about music, hmm, let's talk. There's a bunch of fine music happening in St. Augustine. Some cross-pollination might be good for everybody and a bunch of fun, as well.

  5. Ms. Moon - how have I missed this? I'm on my way to to look it up and hope it's still in print.
    Michelle, it's really hard to explain. For one thing, it's far more in Ms. Moon's backyard than my own *right this minute*, but that could change. Secondly I feel so ill-equipped to talk about it. But as you quite correctly point out, it is a critical point of sanity for me, and by extension at least, my family. I suspect it will creep in. Especially if (oh Lord, oh goddess, oh heavens above, protect us) it boils into the Gulf for the foreseeable future. I love you both.

  6. All my best prayers and wishes for Nest 51.

  7. Michelle H., I promise to stand there by the nest next time I'm there and convey your prayers and blessings. Keep that good energy coming.


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