I believe in moving turtles out of the road– Eastern box turtles, the occasional pond slider, and most recently, a common snapping turtle.
For as long as I can remember I have struggled with the presence of life and death along the roads of Alabama– the death of animals, but also people. Almost all linked to a car or a truck or motorcycle.
I pluck things out of the road. Once before I was able to drive, I shrieked at my mom to pull over when I saw a orange tabby kitten in the middle of the highway. Two years ago on the Winter Solstice, I stopped traffic while I gathered up a juvenile Bard Owl, that was standing stunned in the middle of the road, having likely bounced off a car during flight. I have even stopped our pumper truck for the volunteer fire department, and turned on the lights to move a turtle.
One Christmas, on a country road that passes some fisheries ponds, there were raccoon bodies scattered everywhere. The father, several babies, and the mother were dead. But there was one baby still alive, nuzzled up to its mother’s frost covered fur, trying to get milk. I was—and still am—completely devastated by that–by what disappears as the bi-product of human transportation. Loss is tragic to anything—even a baby raccoon that may or may not know its way—waiting for its mother to help. I took food for days, but of course, will never know if it survived.
But what happens in the end is not really the point. I can’t control that. To me, what matters is the here and now.
I believe that when I drive to the dump to deposit trash, and there are wormy little puppies scurrying about, that I don’t leave them. The same for kittens left on the side of the road. This means that I spend money at the vet. I use my time. It means that for two weeks I take food to an abandoned dog who was obviously beaten and does not trust people—because I believe that all hearts feel.
This means I spend money and time at my own doctor because a kitten I swooped up out of the middle of a four-line highway this year bit through my finger gave me a nasty infection. I love the kitten anyway—her name is Spider.
Maybe it means that spending that money on those animals dictates that I cannot do other things. But it is the measure of life that matters. To me, it is not where I eat out, my clothes, my car. The measure of a life is how I return the gift of living to the world.
I believe in moving turtles out of the road. I choose to move turtles, and kittens, and puppies, dogs and cats, owls, cows, dead deer, and even people out of the road. I believe that if each person takes the time to help somebody or some thing, we create beauty and hope and that the world is worth it.
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