Did you ever look into a mother’s eyes and wish you could help, but you could not? That was the feeling I experienced last week at Stone Harbor Municipal Marina. It was not human tragedy that tugged at my heart, this time it was a female Diamondback terrapin. Females are the ones out and about this time of year seeking to continue the species. From watching many animal shows on television, I’ve learned that, as humans, we must keep our hands out of nature. Sometimes it’s a seemingly heartless action, but we must keep our hands off.
Before entering Borough Hall to report on the most contentious meeting in many moons (about placement of the branch library and Borough Council’s 4-2 vote), I went to some old stomping grounds for a breath of fresh hot air, and refresh memories of youth spent fishing with Dad among those back bay secret deep holes.
The municipal marina is really nice, upgraded from decades ago with new a higher bulkhead that helps keep water from overflowing on high tides.
As I watched the small boats drifting, with fishing lines cast out in hopes of snagging that evening’s supper, I happened to gaze down toward the bulkhead and there she was, that Diamondback terrapin. She made her slow way to each and every indentation of that bulkhead, entering in, then looking up. Enter in, then looking up. Entering in, then looking up.
I snapped a photo of the poor thing, and she stopped her futile crawling to cast a wary eye my way. Imagine her horror on seeing his monstrous creature looking upon her. Obviously, her goal was to find either a way out or a place to lay her eggs.
Something in me at first wanted simply to pick her up and cast her into the bay water where she could swim and find a safer, more natural place upon which to place her eggs. But then, something inside warned me against the very thought of touching the terrapin.
I backed away, and she proceeded once again upon her search, in and out, in and out, in and out.
Never once did she give up her search for a way out. Never did she slow her approach although the search seemed fruitless. If only I could have, for a fleeting moment been like the star in the movie “Dr. Doolittle,” who had the ability to talk to the animals. I would have directed her to the boat ramp where she likely embarked upon the hundreds of feet of enclosed bulkhead that trapped her momentarily.
Our hearts go out to such creatures as Diamondback terrapins, especially those of us who have been in the presence of Dr. Roger Wood, who has centered his life’s work around those delicate amphibians. We know the loving care that legions of college-students have shown by scooping up terrapin eggs from crushed carcasses along our marshland boulevards, then placing them carefully in warm sand where they can await the moment of birth, then be set free when they are yearlings, and have a better chance of survival in the wild.
Sea Isle City celebrates Sara the Turtle to heighten awareness of the general population who, sadly, often think it sport to kill a slow-moving terrapin as she crossed the road, all in hopes of finding safe high ground where eggs will be placed.
Then I thought of tragic human stories where mothers have taken the lives of their children, some just shortly after the wonder of birth took place.
Counter that with how many mothers share unfathomable love for their children. They endure long, arduous trips to prisons to be with their errant offspring for a few short hours. They see only good in their children, and seldom can admit the wrong they might have done or harm inflicted on others. That’s a mother’s love.
There are mothers who, single-handedly, raised families, and did so with a strict hand and short leash. Failure was not an option for their children. They instilled strong morals and good habits in their children.
Because of such mothers, many wise daughters and sons have risen from poverty to become upstanding citizens and have served and continue to serve this nation.
There have been other mothers made to sit through court trials, perhaps listening in horror to the details of what claimed the life of their beloved child at the hand of a drunk or drugged criminal. They will weep, and there is nothing that can ease their pain save time itself. They suffer pain beyond measure.
All these maternal bonds remain a wonderful curiosity to me. Did the group of anglers at the far end of the marina that day help the Diamondback terrapin? Perhaps they, like me, had their hearts tugged, but realized it best simply to let Mother Nature care for her creature.
It hurts to look into a mother’s eyes and share her pain and agony especially when there is precious little that we can do to alleviate it.