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The Rescue


A few years ago I was hiking, and came upon a huge desert tortoise, lying in the middle of my path. One of his back legs was twisted in a strange way, and his eyes looked foggy. I sat beside him for a bit, me talking, him blinking. We decided that I would continue my hike, and would reconvene on my way back. And since I’m an animal lover, but not a biologist, maybe my concern was unfounded.

The day was lovely as I reached my turn around spot, a huge flat rock, overlooking a steep and wild wash. My mood was light, and I was certain my reptilian friend would be on his way, When I came again to where we’d met, I found that he hadn’t moved at all...leg still twisted, eyes still cloudy.


My mind sprung to action. How do you carry a huge tortoise a mile without injuring or terrifying it? Who could help me rescue my new friend? What is the phone number to the desert tortoise rescue that I’d heard of while living in the Mojave?


In a flash, I thought of my friend Bear, a retired Joshua Tree National Park ranger. I called him from where I stood, he answered immediately, said he would be there soon. So I started my trek toward where we would meet.


He arrived in flip flops with a big smile on his face, having escaped a day of errands, which he had forgone for an adventure and a hike. As we walked, we made our rescue plans...


And when we rounded the bend, we found that my desperately-in-need tortoise friend had departed. We walked around the area, searching for him...maybe he had dragged himself to a lovely vista to draw his last breath. But no, we found him ambling quite effectively over rough incline terrain, slowly but confidently.


I was deeply embarrassed, I had wasted my dear friend’s time. I apologized profusely and expressed my regret for disrupting his day. He turned slowly to look at me, and said,


”So in the midst of this good thing, this beautiful day with a good friend in a beautiful place, you’re going to use this as an opportunity to kick your own can?”


I was stunned into silence. We gazed at each other for a moment. There was nothing to say, nothing to do, but hug my dear friend, and sit down and watch an ancient and amazingly capable creature move down it’s own path, away from us and back into it’s day.


I try to pause now when I catch myself apologizing for being me, I try to include more gentleness into my perspective, because I know my heart is in the right place. And I’m quite sure, dear reader, that yours is too.











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