“I want to share this story with you. It was one of the more powerfully subtle, yet defining and lasting experiences in my outdoor adventures. Unknown at the time, it would eventually lead me to find my current passion, helping people and wildlife resolve problems.”
The canoe glided into the pool at the bottom of the rapids, a small marshy flat area with thin reeds and lily pads along the shore, just before opening into a long lake. From the corner of my eye I caught some splashing and movement. Looking over I could see a small duckling, floundering and thrashing about by some water grasses. “Probably got hung up in some old fishing line”, I said to myself as I turned the canoe towards the little duck. Its head bobbed under the water a few times as it tried to flee as I approached. It didn’t realize I was there to help it out.
As I pulled up beside the little creature, it’s head broke the surface and I quickly snatched it up by the neck and pulled it from the water. I could feel the tension and weight build as I pulled the duckling out of the water, from what I thought was the fishing line still attached to the grasses. I was nailed by shock as I looked down and saw no fishing line attached, but instead there hung tenaciously to the little ducklings leg, was an immature snapping turtle! The young turtle had the ducklings leg fully in it’s mouth, it’s strong jaws crushing the ducklings leg and puncturing through nearly to the bone. The turtle was fighting and hanging on for it’s survival, for it’s meal. The duckling was fighting to get away and live another day. There I sat, instantly caught in the middle of a life and death situation I wished I’d never been invited to.
The gurgle of water over the rocks, the wind breaks through the trees, the bright sun illuminating the day, had all disappeared in that moment. The world vanished around me. I was still in a bit of shock at having to referee such young lives so suddenly and unexpectedly, that I just slowly began to lower the two of them back into the water. I almost wished I’d never intruded, never attempted to help that duckling. Truth be told, if I had see the turtle before I picked up the duck, I never would have gotten involved. It was too late however, and the only hope I had was that I could somehow put them back where I found them as if I had never been apart of it. To just go back in time as if I had never interfered with the natural cycle before me.
As the turtle’s body sank back into the water he pulled the duckling down with him. Those few intense seconds out of the water must have put a major strain on the little turtles jaw. The duckling erupted from the water just after submerging with the turtle in an explosion of water and downy fluff. Free from the turtle it wasted no time beating its little wings ungracefully into the thick reeds close to shore. I knew instantly it wouldn’t make it, and that there was no way I’d ever catch it now. The waters beside the canoe had calmed. I could look through the clear water and see the young turtle sitting on the bottom of the stream bed, slowly opening and closing its jaws. I wondered how long it had been since it’s last meal, and how long it might go until it’s next. I sat in the canoe for a few moments trying to make sense of the events, drifting quietly away in the slow current. Several quiet minutes passed before I turned the canoe downstream, and made my way slowly and quietly across the lake.
I spent the rest of that canoe trip thinking heavily about that little turtle and duckling, and I’ve never stopped to this day. At this point I’ve come to believe that no one was meant to win that day. My desires to be removed and absent from the moment were foolish and irresponsible. I had forgotten in the excitement that we’re all participants, and part of this system of life. Whether we choose to accept it or not. Sometimes we become far more invested and involved in that balance then we care for. Rarely will our choices be black and white, but they certainly can’t be ignored. Life begets death begets life