She stretches her head, as far as her neck will reach, as if straining for the scent of the wind. This neck, an accordian bridge connecting head with shell and eyes with body, is fragile as paper and tough as leather. Four sturdy legs propel her forward much quicker than any stereotypes or fables told of her. She glides with her belly close to the earth, stopping here or there to chew on this or that. She is curiosity embodied on a mission that is unspoken mystery, glinting in the steady gaze of those two beaded eyes.
She heads for the edge, always the edge. Could it be that she, too, longs for what lies beyond those eyes?
We may be more alike than I ever thought.
* * * * *
She reaches the edge of grass, the curb sloping sharply down to concrete canyon. I watch her peer over and plunge headlong, front legs spread to the sides, willing to fall. She is braver than I. Her thick enamel shell, which is her home, breaks her fall and she is still, looking out upon her new terrain.
I stand back and watch her in the world and I know she has things to teach me if I slow to her pace and get down with my belly low to the earth.
* * * * *
At another time in life, I would have moved too fast to be still, to catch the beauty in her smallness or the wonder of how much in common we share. To marvel at the ancient feel of her scaled skin against my fingers.
I would never have thought to envy her portable home or recognized with intimate familiarity, how well I already know this shell. I would not have sensed in her my own longing for the terrifying freedom of life with a God who is not contained or small as I was taught, the loneliness of life out on the edge, the ever-present shadow of the Holy hovering nearer than the shell on my back.
She was not my first choice for a pet. But then, how many times have I tasted the unexpected richness of not-first-choices in this life? Always, there, I uncover more treasure than I set out for.
I scoop her up and all four legs swim in the air and I think she wants to fly. And it looks like I will be the one to help her believe she can, even for a few moments, and maybe, too, she will teach me how to fall.
Linking with Unforced Rhythms