Turtle in the Afternoon
A month or so after the equinox—the lake empty, even the grebes have flown south already—I take my canoe out, one last time on the water before the autumn storms come sweeping in off Lake Superior with their promise of sleet and snow. The temperature is hovering around fifty with a slight south wind, the sun at mid-height through wispy cirrus clouds—and returning home I pass into the little bay where, two summers ago in the midst of heavy drought, the beavers built a new lodge. I haven’t seen them since—perhaps they left for the backwoods when the swamps filled up again. The trees around the bay are mostly bare by now. There’s an old yellow birch that fell into the lake years back, and one large section of the trunk extends upward a foot or two above the water. As I paddle closer I see at eye level a turtle who has crawled up and out along a branch to catch the last warmth of the afternoon sun. He looks back at me—no fear—not scrambling off into the water as turtles usually do, but just sits there, head extended, looking right at me as I pause, mid-stroke, and watch him watching me.
Copyright © 2017 by Robert Alexander