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Shell Shock: An Excerpt from Self-Portrait with Turtles: A Memoir, by David M. Carroll

Weakened by thaw, the outer edge of a great ice sheet gradually gives way under my weight and eases me into two and a half feet of mud and water, floodwater filled with the new light of spring. On the twenty-second of March I begin the first day of my fiftieth year with the turtles. In a far different place I set out on the same search, with the intent and eagerness and much of the heart, if not the legs, of the original, even aboriginal, boy. My eyes are not as keen as they were; I now see more by way of experience and a long accrual and sharpening of search-images. As I peer into water pockets blacker than shadow and scan sedges burnished by winter and reflecting the near-blinding ascendant March sun, I am grateful that I still have a turtle place to come to and that I can find a way to be here.

So much opens up before me at this annual returning. The midday quiet here—not even a whisper from the water gliding by—the stillness and apparent torpor of the snowy woods and ice-bound alder thickets I crossed in coming here belie the urgency of turtle season about to break. The need to be everywhere at once is never greater than during the first few days of the turtles' emergence from hibernation: there are so many beginnings, renewals, and first instants set in such simultaneity. Every place I am is a hundred I am not. I never have a harder time reining myself in, focusing, slowing into the day. There is such a rush within the tranquility and timelessness of thaw, the stunned, blinking coming forth in so many hidden places, all in the space of any hour, any moment; somewhere, everything.

Self-Portrait with Turtles: A Memoir
David M. Carroll
Houghton Mifflin Company, $23.


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