There is a slow, peaceful creature captivating me even more than before I started paddling four years ago. I first spied her one of my first paddles on the Gulf of Mexico. I took a break from my paddle and did a floating session asana. First just her head peered out to catch a breath, which was almost audible from my board. Then her whole body broke the ocean’s surface before diving and disappearing. Encountering her creates this generates a sense of sacredness in me…something ancient…almost mysterious.
“According to traditional Japanese beliefs, the tortoise is a haven for immortals and the world mountain, and symbolizes longevity, good luck, and support. It is the symbol of Kumpira, the god of seafaring people.” (Wikipedia) The turtles definitely have a magnetism. Tourists to Oahu, my new home, arrive from sun up to sun down at “Turtle Beach” just hoping to catch a glimpse of these prehistoric looking beings. They are armed with GoPros on long poles, snorkels and fins hoping to catch a shot of the floating ones.
Yesterday I finished my training, with Malama Na Honu,
to be an educator (to those who come to behold the turtles)
and guardian (so folks understand what helps them remain safe and wild)
for the Hawaiian green turtles (currently nationally registered as endangered) who rest on the North Shore of Oahu. Once turtles started coming to this beach to rest, after chomping on the great food on surrounding rocks, word got out. Unfortunately the respect most of us know to give them is not always honored so Malama Na Honu was formed to assist in the stewardship of these sea dwellers/sun baskers.
Yesterday a couple from Korea spoke to me about the symbolism of the tortoise – immortality/longevity (depending on culture) and wisdom – in their culture. We concluded this probably part of the fascination with the turtles as well.
Their power draws us in no matter where we encounter them. I, myself, have found my deep curiosity pulling my paddleboard in their direction when I spy in the water surrounding my board. I have to remind myself to remain a distance that allows observation without interference; no matter how much I wish I could scoop my hand into the water and touch them or desire to submerge myself in the salty water in which they swim.
The wonderful powers of their lives are one to behold and protect. The folks of the Hawaiian islands have taken great efforts to secure their future pushing their status locally to threatened (via conservation, education and guardian efforts), though they remain endangered across the nation. Florida also has made many strides in protecting and educating about the turtles. Awakening before the sun countless folks walk the white sand beaches in search of new nests before critters (including humans), ATVs, beach vendors, and high tides destroy these treasures filled with up to 150 eggs sometimes.
Mahalo to all who give of their time to watch after these creatures that personify the Earth, in Native American culture. May the turtle not be the only one, as some believe, to bear the burden of the whole world. Grass-root action coupled with research efforts done at places like NOAA, are truly the backbone to allowing us to enjoy their beauty as we paddle or yoga along. Namaste