Las Tortugas de Sayulita



The kids and I kissed Christian goodbye in the Queretaro airport as he boarded his flight back to Vancouver and we boarded ours to Puerta Vallarta - he will be joining us in a few days after meetings. After driving up the coast and a not-so-quick shop at Mega for provisions, we arrived at our Casa Rubi in Sayulita after dark, tired but happy to hear the waves crashing. We awoke this morning to meet our neighbor, 6-year-old Macy from Bend, who gave us her recommendations for town, including the best paletas (popsicles) at Wa Kiki and the do-not-miss Campemento Tortuguero Sayulita - the Sea Turtle Sanctuary. She proudly told us she herself was a volunteer at the sanctuary and that we should definitely go check to see if any Olive Ridley Sea Turtle hatchlings were being released at sunset just down the beach.

I told Xavier and Georgia about the time Christian and I released turtles near Puerto Escondido a few years before they were even born and showed them pictures here on my first travel blog. (The D.H. Lawrence poem about baby turtles is worth reposting - see below). That was one of the best moments in a life of many good moments. 

And here - que milagro! - I got to experience it again with my kids. Xavier was a little nervous after hearing about poachers (part of the reason there is a sanctuary for this threatened species) and Georgia was extremely upset she couldn't hold a baby turtle in her hand (I had told her she might). Regardless, we cheered the tiny turtles on their way with about 30 other people and it was a magical experience, once again.

Xavier wanted to know how the baby turtles knew how to swim and I wasn't sure how to explain about instinct and the marvels of nature other than, well, they just learn by doing it, like we learn to do a lot of things just by trying to do it. This very morning, both of my kids had shouted, "I'm swimming!" in their orange water wings. But to think of them walking directly into the intimidating waves for the first time, all alone, just going for it and not turning back, made me feel awe-struck over these one-day-old turtle hatchlings.


Baby Tortoise

You know what it is to be born alone,
Baby tortoise!
The first day to heave your feet little by little from the shell,
Not yet awake,
And remain lapsed on earth,
Not quite alive.

A tiny, fragile, half-animate bean.

To open your tiny beak-mouth, that looks as if it would never open,

Like some iron door;
To lift the upper hawk-beak from the lower base
And reach your skinny little neck
And take your first bite at some dim bit of herbage,
Alone, small insect,
Tiny bright-eye,
Slow one.

To take your first solitary bite
And move on your slow, solitary hunt.
Your bright, dark little eye,
Your eye of a dark disturbed night,
Under its slow lid, tiny baby tortoise,
So indomitable.
No one ever heard you complain.

You draw your head forward, slowly, from your little wimple

And set forward, slow-dragging, on your four-pinned toes, Rowing slowly forward.
Whither away, small bird?
Rather like a baby working its limbs,
Except that you make slow, ageless progress
And a baby makes none.

The touch of sun excites you,
And the long ages, and the lingering chill
Make you pause to yawn,
Opening your impervious mouth,
Suddenly beak-shaped, and very wide, like some suddenly gaping pincers;
Soft red tongue, and hard thin gums,
Then close the wedge of your little mountain front,
Your face, baby tortoise.

Do you wonder at the world, as slowly you turn your head in its wimple
And look with laconic, black eyes?
Or is sleep coming over you again,
The non-life?

You are so hard to wake.

Are you able to wonder?
Or is it just your indomitable will and pride of the first life
Looking round
And slowly pitching itself against the inertia
Which had seemed invincible?

The vast inanimate,
And the fine brilliance of your so tiny eye,

Nay, tiny shell-bird,
What a huge vast inanimate it is, that you must row against,
What an incalculable inertia.

Little Ulysses, fore-runner,
No bigger than my thumb-nail,
Buon viaggio.

All animate creation on your shoulder,
Set forth, little Titan, under your battle-shield.

The ponderous, preponderate,
Inanimate universe;
And you are slowly moving, pioneer, you alone.

How vivid your travelling seems now, in the troubled sunshine,
Stoic, Ulyssean atom;
Suddenly hasty, reckless, on high toes.

Voiceless little bird,
Resting your head half out of your wimple
In the slow dignity of your eternal pause.
Alone, with no sense of being alone,
And hence six times more solitary;
Fulfilled of the slow passion of pitching through immemorial ages
Your little round house in the midst of chaos.

Over the garden earth,
Small bird,
Over the edge of all things.

With your tail tucked a little on one side
Like a gentleman in a long-skirted coat.

All life carried on your shoulder,
Invincible fore-runner.



Sarah Burns