never mind, that’s just the turtle you smell

We rode our bicycles south to Seward Park, on Sunday. It ended up being a little over fifteen miles, roundtrip. This summer, that distance seems to be our sweet spot for carefree joy riding. Our favorite parts of the journey were the long downhill coast through Colman Park then the six miles of car-free pedaling along Lake Washington Boulevard. Oliver Fern found a real nifty turtle shell on the beach at Seward Park, he spotted it below with his ridiculous eagle eyes while I was taking a picture of the snow lantern just outside the park entrance. We staggered down through a briar patch then mushy reeds for a closer inspection, he pined for me to transport it home on the back of my bike. I’m not sure if the empty shell first belonged to an extraordinarily musky Yertle or Lake Washington is just a lot dirtier than usual. The shell emanated an odor that can best be described as thunderly horrendous alligator-turdstink, akin to a filthy truck stop restroom where all ten toilets are graphically plugged.

On the ride home, Oliver begged for us to stop so he could swim a little. We picked the cleanest-looking, loneliest shorespot along the lake, that could be found. The three of us refused to join him on account of several closed beaches (poor water quality) several weeks ago but we were willing to take our chances on the eight year old (I guess that’s the only honest way of putting it). Oh boy, he was like a pig in the mud! It’s just really fun to watch Oliver swimming and laughing, he’s like an overgrown bird splashing around in the birdbath. When we did get home, he and I took a shower together to ensure every trace of the lake was removed from his body. There’s not a lot of room in there so it was a little awkward. I soaped him down til he was clean as new fallen snow which had been put through reverse osmosis and then dumped out and replaced with snow that hadn’t even been given a chance to touch the ground.

In case you’re wondering, back at the house we balanced the turtle shell upon a stick and propped it up behind the shed (as far from the back porch as possible). As though summoned by magic wand, the bottle flies came out of nowhere to gather on the shell, en masse. I wondered if a raccoon might eventually come along, take that shell for nothing else than a good chaw (nope, it’s still there). Oliver was really happy. Turtle shells are pretty neat to find. Hopefully the terrible smell and various bacterial and virus-containing organisms will wear off.

4 thoughts on “never mind, that’s just the turtle you smell

  1. Nope, I wasn’t thinking about Voldemort, Wormtail, et al. I was thinking about Native American Turtle Shell Rattle!!!! I’m not sure which ceremonies the Iroquois use them for, but I’m pretty sure it’s the high-powered important ones, but since this would be your own non-religious rattle, you could put it to use for whatever rites and dances you like.

    • You’ve got a knack for sending me down the most interesting rabbit holes. This feels like an important one, Oliver will be pretty fascinated to see some of the pictures and stories I found tonight about the use of shells in indigenous ceremonies, symbolism.I’ve got a nephew who catches snappers with his barehands like nothing, he’s really knowledgeable.I’ll have to ask him about this side of things. Everything going okay for you? Any writings in the works? what will work look like for you this semester?

      • Still working from home, still busy as heck at work, and starting two new classes, that’s all good. But haven’t had the urge to write recreationally, just glad to step away from the computer for a while. I saw someone pick up a snapper once, and how far those things can stick their necks out. When the geology museum in Ithaca got a fresh whale skeleton, that had washed up on the beach in New England, and it stunk to high heaven, they buried the bones in a pile of horse manure for a while, and the bacteria got rid of the smell. They reassembled the bones and hung it up right at the front door

  2. What an adventure! Cudos to you for making the effort to retrieve the turtle shell and for not throwing it back out straightaway when it’s odoriferous nature revealed itself. Amazing what doorways into history and culture that stinky old shell contains, and how they might stimulate Oliver’s imagination. I miss having my nephews come for summer camp at Aunt Lona’s house. It made life so much more interesting to see it through eight year old eyes!

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