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
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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