I am driving home, rolling west toward Hastings along the dips and curves of Highway #7. It's late afternoon and the sun is angled low, throwing muted shadows that turn the paved road a dusky purple, and the trees on the horizon a sure steel blue.
Up ahead, small lumps appear in the road and I instantly slow and veer off to the shoulder and turn off the engine. This is my fifth veer this week. I always hope they are only broken hunks of rock, fallen from the steep granite walls that escort this road as it carves through blasted Canadian Shield. Too often, the pieces are not the grey-green streaks of shattered bedrock, but of shattered turtle.
I jump out and hurry over to see stillness crushed into the gravel. The mossy shell is cracked fully open, and the yellow plastron underneath is split in half, internal organs crushed. The only movement is an opaque balloon-like lung wavering in the wind, like a small pleading white flag, surrendering too late.
The way my chest constricts at this sight, it might as well be my heart lying out broken on the pavement. I can't help it -- I'm a turtle lover. Something about those artful reticulated orangey lines, the tactile wonder of the smooth under and the domed over. Turtles are so earnest. Seems such a tremendous amount of effort on their part to form not only leathery tail and needle claws, but a solid armored shell and rubbery breastplate, too. Those soft folds of pale yellow skin, just inside where their little turtle underarms meet the elusive body that disappears under that helmet exterior. They are the perfect sculpture...so many textures, so much detail, so much creativity in their very existence. The eyes blink back Zen-like, the knowledge of ancients behind those tiny dinosaur lids.