confessions of a turtle

Yesterday, while I was mowing the lawn with my grandfather's push-mower, my four-year-old son saw the clover moving where I was about to cut and yelled at me to stop. There, in the clover, was a baby turtle.

This is story.

I like stories, and I like this story because it evokes a world in which I am doing an eco-conscious thing by hand-cutting my lawn. It evokes a world in which I live surrounded by towering oaks in a place where you can find a mole one day, and a tiny turtle the next. This is a world where birds nest in the ivy that crawls up the side of my small, snug house, and strawberries grow fat and sweet in the garden, all summer long.

Most of all, though, it evokes a world in which I'm an involved, attentive father - a man who loves to spend time outside with his son; basking in the warmth of a summer day, in the gentle buzzing of the bees and the smell of fresh-cut clover.

It's a true story, too. 

Here is another story, though, and equally true: I am a terrible father, and sometimes I think the only reason I spend time with my son is because I am afraid of writing myself into a cliched life-story where I have a sullen, uncommunicative teenage boy who hates my guts; a boy who sees me as a distant, unapproachable mountain - a concept, more than a father. And sometimes, I wonder if I am only writing this attentive-father story of mine because I am annoyed by people who don't... because I am afraid of becoming the sort of person I would judge. I am afraid that, in the right (wrong) circumstances, I would run off to a life of selfish irresponsibility, a life where I would lose all self-respect and self-love.

I am repelled by this insight. 

I wonder, thinking it, if everybody is like me - if everybody is as incapable as I seem to be of BEING in a moment, and enjoying it for what it is, without turtling in on himself. I wonder if I'm the only one who can't seem to do anything without eventually analyzing it as an element in a story. I hope so. It sucks to experience your life as an observer, and I wouldn't wish in on anyone. Nonetheless, this is my reality, and my hope is that it is less important why you are a responsible, attentive, loving father, than that you actually just suck it up and do it.

As my friend James once remarked, "A great man once said: I am not a great man. But if acknowledging that I am not a great man makes me one... well, then, I guess I am."


  1. I do the same thing all the time. Watch myself, judge myself, perform myself.
    But at the same time... there's another way to look at it; by performing the self you want to become, you embody that self and you become that self. Maybe for people who are wired like this, it's the best way to be your best self? Like you say - "just suck it up and do it."
    Maybe that, and maybe finding a way to lose yourself - in art, in meditation, in exercise, in something, at least for part of every day. Too often I lose myself by zoning out in screen time, and I don't think that's the best way.

  2. Yeah... I almost said something about the places where I can lose myself. Exercise IS particularly good for it (which is perhaps why I "enjoyed" treeplanting for as long as I did), but art's probably the biggest one for me... maybe because by making art, I can take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and be extremely focused and intentional about the exact story I am trying to write.

    Thanks for the solidarity, E. :)


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