On the campsite next to us, a huge snapping turtle laid her eggs. We suspect she might be the same turtle my husband “saved” the week before by carrying her in a plastic garbage bin and depositing her in the river. If it was, we experienced a Grapes of Wrath moment as this disrupted turtle traveled her intended path despite our best intentions. If not, she allowed us a front row seat to her maternal contribution to the world. I counted eight eggs, but I am sure there were at least a dozen or more. According to Wikipedia, snapping turtles lay between 25 and 80 eggs in a season. We may not see the young, since in our cooler climate, they may hibernate beyond the nine to eighteen week gestation. Nevertheless, this mother’s delivery process fascinated me. I could predict the next egg by her breathing pattern. Each time she buried the egg with her foot until it became unseen even from a different vantage point. When she finished, she filled the hole thoroughly. Had I not witnessed this, I might have guessed it was from the casual digging of a child. Yet under the surface, life has begun. We may see the results of the mother turtle’s efforts. But, she will not. Her mothering goal for this group of eggs is done. She stretched her cramped legs, shook the sand from them, and ambled away in her portable home.
Later in the day, my sons and I observed two families of Canada geese. Having recently read about them in Character Sketches Volume I from the Institute in Basic Life Principles under the heading Loyalty, we reviewed what we learned. If two males battle for the attention of a female, she still has the final say on which will be chosen. It is not always the winner. But, once the choice is made, Canada geese mate for life. Together they protect the life of their young even to the death. As we watched the two families congregate on the shore, the parents hissed warnings as we walked up the path. After they entered the water, they separated into their individual families. One gander even shoved the tail feathers of the other to widen the distance, maybe even to scold him for suggesting the onshore excursion. The perturbed gander’s wife edged forward in case her husband needed backup. Then at a comfortable distance, the families made their way through the river bay.
My sons and I continued our walk, and my youngest slipped his hand into mine. I squeezed it and held on the rest of the way.