Thursday, July 15, 2010

Snapping Turtles and Ducks

Recently a friend of mine told me a story about a tragedy that occurred while she watched in the pond behind her house. A duck got caught in the grips of a snapping turtle. I think what may have happened is that while the duck put its head under the water to get a drink or maybe go for a fish, the snapping turtle grabbed its neck and held it under water until it drowned. My friend saw her duck in distress and started wading out into the pond to save the duck but could not get there fast enough. She helplessly watched as the duck lost the fight to the turtle.

My first thought was to wonder what would have happened to my friend if this incident had happened in a more shallow part of the pond where she could have interceded on the duck’s behalf. Would she have allowed herself to be bitten by the turtle in the attempt to save the duck? I knew in this story there was a lesson for all of us about trying to remedy situations that are beyond our control.

I believe that there are those of us who always seem to be the ones saving the day, rescuing the perishing, putting our own sanity, emotional health, and even maybe our finances at risk for the ones who always seem to be needing to be saved. We are the ones wading out into the pond, maybe in our dress clothes and our high heel shoes even, because there is a helpless duck out there, splashing about, panicked and flapping its wings, helplessly flailing about, to no avail, as the fearless snapping turtle is just holding steady, calmly watching as the life drains out of the helpless duck.
And then we find that the duck perishes anyway. If we are able to save it from this snapping turtle, the next day or the day after, that poor duck falls prey to some other horrible event. And then we blame ourselves because we were not there to save the day.

At some point those of us who consider ourselves the “rescuers” of the downtrodden need to realize that some things are just out of our control. There are always going to be snapping turtles. There are always going to be helpless ducks. Sometimes we just have to step back and allow nature to take its course. If we always insist on “saving the day”, someday we may find ourselves at the other end of the snapping turtle’s grip.

This reminds me of that universal law called “detachment from the outcome.” It is probably called something else but this is what I call it. In other words, the grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. The trees don’t struggle to produce leaves every spring. Somehow those leaves just pop out without the tree even thinking about what steps it needs to take to make sure those leaves grow. We humans get a lot more stressed out about making things happen or not happen than the world of nature does. We grieve a lot longer than we should. We can’t make someone love us, we can’t make a family member or a pet live longer than they are supposed to. I think Jesus said we can’t make one hair on our head grow or make ourselves one inch taller. At some point we just have to allow nature to take its course. If we are always rescuing a beloved family member from disaster then there will always be a “next time.”

When I first built my pond and filled it with fish, I was always going out there and checking up on them, chasing away the cats and any other predators that happened along while I was on watch. When I noticed I had frogs I did the same. Then I would worry if I didn’t see a frog for a day or two. Now that I have had my pond for seven years and I still have one of my original fish I realize that I can never be there twenty four hours a day protecting those fish. I have to go to work. I have to go to bed at night. I am forced to give over control of my pond to a Higher Power and say, ” Can you please watch over my fish while I sleep?” And if the fish get eaten or my frogs don’t show up one day, I have to give up that control and realize it is the circle of life. One fish dies and then suddenly I have several baby fish swimming around. It is the natural cycle of life.

I guess my message for today is that sometimes things happen that we would not prefer. We have to be thankful for everything, the good stuff and the not so good and realize that it is all a part of life. Sometimes it is just time to let go. Some things are just out of our control.

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