Change at Turtle Bay

(photo by Sarah Whiting)

Walking is my therapy. I walk alone with no music or cell phone. I follow the same path that links my neighborhood with the next and loops back to my street. The trek is all right turns, which eventually leads me back to where I started.

On a recent walk, I had much to consider. Overwhelming stress at my job of nine years, the potential second interview at a new company, my husband’s business struggling, our last daughter leaving the nest soon, and our oldest daughter’s upcoming marriage. These thoughts and details were robbing me of sleep and keeping my nerves on edge.

I walked to the end of my driveway and turned right.

My pace was swift as my mind tried to sort out all that was happening. The sturdiness of the pavement beneath my feet intensified the pressure I felt as I tried to find answers in situations that seemed rigid and inflexible.

As I crossed into the adjacent neighborhood, a car idled in the path of my usual right turn. While I waited for the car to move, I looked left. There was a walking path along the lake that I had never taken.

I turned left.

My pace slowed as I took in the sights and smell of the lake. The sounds of lapping water, the birds singing, and the trees blooming brought a smile to my face. I saw a bridge made of wood and floating barrels, and started across it.

My steps moved with the waves of the water. I felt lighter, both physically and mentally. Toward the end of the bridge, I stopped and saw a colony of ten turtles on top of a fallen tree. They were two feet from the bridge, but my presence did not faze them. They looked directly at me.

They were huddled together in an area of stagnant water. There were dead leaves and algae around them. It was one of the few places in the lake where water was not flowing.

Suddenly, one of the turtles moved off the branch and to the right. He went to the shallow bottom and burrowed himself in the leaves and algae as he pulled into his shell.

I looked at the other turtles. They continued to look directly at me. They seemed to be waiting for me to make the next move. Am I that turtle burrowed in the dead leaves? Have I been going through life only making right turns, too afraid to take risks?

Do I pull myself into my shell and wait for the flowing waters to come to me, rather than swimming toward the fresh new waters?

I walked slowly along the remainder of the floating dock. Just before I stepped off, I looked back to see the turtles still looking at me.

I took a deep breath in and a deep breath out.

I stepped off the dock and went left on the path, not knowing where it would lead me.

Tess Mertens-Johnson is based in Prior Lake, the city she grew up in, where she hangs out with friends and family, and spoils her grandchildren.