Eastern painted turtle

When you see a chance to help, take it


As mentioned in a previous post, I recently broke my glasses. Or more to the point, the left arm connector on the frame disintegrated.

Since I survived last week’s round of layoffs, I decided to “treat” myself and order a new pair of specs. Alas, even with insurance, they still ended up costing $500. Now I just hope that in two to four weeks, when the new bifocals arrive, I’ll actually be able to see out of them. (Note: In the past, this has not always been case.)

On the way to the eye doctor, however, I encountered a turtle. She was about the size of a lunch box and had a distinctive set of stripes on her body. Her shell was dark green on top and a vivid orange on the undercarriage.

Hours later, I would learn she was an eastern painted turtle — a creature that is common in New Hampshire — who was likely searching for a place to dig a hole and lay her eggs. I also discovered that her biggest threat was something called “road mortality,” which was exactly the situation she appeared to be facing when our paths crossed.

M and I were driving up to the light at the end of our block when I looked toward the sidewalk and noticed a turtle heading straight for the street. Another couple of steps and she would’ve fallen a good four inches onto hard asphalt. If she survived that, she would surely have ambled straight into traffic.

I pointed out the turtle’s precarious position. Once M spotted her, he took a quick glance at my face and immediately pulled the car off into an empty parking lot so I could hop out. Which is exactly what I did. I raced over to the turtle, scooped her up, walked several feet away from the road and aimed her in the direction of Dorrs Pond.

Freaked out by my sudden appearance in her life, the turtle gathered all of her tender extremities into the shell and hid. But I was gentle, both when I lifted her away from the sidewalk perch of certain doom and when I placed her back on the ground in the soft, cool grass.

“Head that way,” I told her, as I pointed toward the pond. Hopefully, she listened and laid her eggs elsewhere. When we returned from the vision center, no turtle-shaped roadkill littered the road so I think we were successful in helping her stay alive.

This endeavor set us back two whole minutes. Although we made it to our appointment on time, even if we had been late, the effort would’ve been worth it. Who knows what would’ve happened if I hadn’t noticed the turtle, if M hadn’t pulled over the car, if I hadn’t repositioned the beautiful animal and urged it to escape Death’s clutches. One can never know if a single act of kindness will alter someone’s life or have a butterfly effect and change the world.

Despite the madness of the past year, the past month and even the past week, I still believe that when you see a chance to help, you must take it. I’ve never regretted doing so.

–Photo by KJorgen.

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