Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A sea turtle remembers home...

Last night on the news I heard a fact that stunned me. It was a feature on how rescuers are saving the Gulf sea turtles. They are harvesting the eggs a few days before they are due to hatch and shipping them over to the Atlantic where, if all goes well, in a few days they will emerge unscathed and make their way to the sea. The fact that startled me was this. They pack the eggs in sand from the Gulf so that hopefully the turtles will recall the smell of home and return to the Gulf in twenty years time to breed and lay their eggs once again. I could not believe this detail of nature. That the turtles will recall the smell of their sand and it will lead them home. And in twenty years. Think of all that Ulysseus went through in just ten years.

This proves something that I've always suspected about the traveler. Home imprints itself in us, perhaps even more so than those who never leave, in ways we cannot imagine. I am sure that we have all had dreams of flying. I have them quite a lot, though often it is more like swimming in air. In one dream I feared I would get lost, but then I understood that my belly button was equipped with navigational redial and all I had to do was press it and I'd be home.

For many many years I had a kind of repetitive dream. I was in a jungle, a desert, walking down a Paris Street, and suddenly footprints, a way, a path in the snow would appear, and I'd follow it and it always took me back to 105 Hazel in Highland Park, Illinois where I was raised as a child. Not a particularly happy childhood, yet, for whatever reason (perhaps trauma as Alice Miller, the noted psychologist, might say) I kept going back. In my dreams at any rate.

And it turns out that people tend to buy houses or live in places that evoke some secure part of home. And just recently when visiting my cousins at Plum Farm, I had a long drive to Milwaukee to see my mother. My cousin Donna made me a tuna fish sandwich with pickles in it on white bread. As I was driving, I pulled off into a rest area and ate my sandwich. I mean, it was tuna fish, not the madelaine, but my root are Midwestern, not Combray. Still as I was eating that sandwich, I was eight years old, home from school, at summer camp, wherever a child might be. I was back as surely as if I'd flown there.

So as I write this, I think of those little travelers. The sea turtles. How far they will journey. How big they will grow. And yet imprinted inside of them, forever, is the scent of home.


  1. Dear Ms. Morris,
    What a lovely piece! I enjoyed it very much. I agree, special things that appeal to the senses can instantly bring back memories. Music also has that power, as I've seen in my work with the elderly.
    As for the turtles, though, what are they returning to? Will the Gulf ever be 'clean' again, even in twenty years? It's a troubling thought.
    I look forward to reading more of your columns now that Google has led me here!

  2. Dear Mae, thank you so much for your lovely comments. I appreciate it a lot. I know what you mean about music and the elderly. Music does have that power, doesn't it. I remember all the lyrics from when I was ten years old. It is like the scent of that sand, isn't it. As to the Gulf, life will go on. And we humans will continue to make our mistakes. But I am optimistic. The sad part is how people have to suffer now, losing their livelihoods. That breaks my heart. Glad you enjoy the blog. Hope you'll become a follower, via Facebook, Google, or whatever. Again I appreciate your comments.