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Cultivating Respect for Our Bodies

box turtle sits in fern
Perhaps in the clearest evidence of a shared ancestor between turtles and avians, my rescued box turtle, Bruce, likes to climb up his fern and perch in it – just like a bird would!

My mom recently sent me an intriguing link.

The post attached to it is dated 2016.

The title of that post is “how much of your body is your own?”

If you are anything at all like me, you immediately thought, “um, all of it?”

Then you thought, “oh that’s right – microbes.”

After all, the new science of gut biome (as well as a fab new book called “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” by stellar author Bill Bryson) tells us that we may also share the skin we are in with as many as 40,000 microbiota species.

The way I figure it, as long as they don’t crowd the rest of me, they can stay.

So back to this post. I clicked the link and it took me to a page to enter my age, gender, height, weight and birthdate.

Then it spit out more numbers than I’ve seen all in one place since my last (disastrous) calculus test in college.

For example, at current market values, the chemicals currently residing inside me are worth $1,907.

My DNA can hold less data than the average DVD or flash drive but more than my neighbor’s dog or the last MSWord document I formatted.

I have 3.5 million sweat glands (all of which are right now being called to suit up and show up, given that my weather app tells me the high temp today is going to be 97F).

My kidneys – each of them on their own, not combined – are nearly exactly the same size as a tennis ball.

And I have grown already in my lifetime more than 19 feet of hair.

(This last sounds extremely promising, given my misguided decision to give myself a haircut during the recent coronavirus quarantine. Oops.)

So much I don’t know about my own body and all of it marvelous. I didn’t come with a copy of “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” when I popped out 49 and a half years ago. For the record, my mom didn’t get one either – for me or her.

And the BBC data link wasn’t invented until just a handful of years ago.

I spent the first three of my nearly five decades on this small round blue planet absolutely loathing my body. I tried everything I could think of to change how it looked without ever once stopping to appreciate or at least compassionately consider what it must have had to do to survive my occupancy.

Today, I find it shocking I continue to struggle with any body insecurities at all (which I sadly still do) given the sheer marvelousness of the physical aspect of me.

Where it becomes much easier to default to appreciation versus criticism is when I regard the same in my pets, Pearl, Malti and Bruce.

Take Pearl, for example.

Conservatively, my featherweight life mate may have as many as 3,000 or more feathers growing on his tiny 80-gram frame at any given moment. And those feathers aren’t all the same, either. He has at least 10 different feather types, including some very tiny feathers that can disintegrate into a powder to condition the other feathers.

Pearl, like all avians, can see in ultraviolet, which requires an extra eye cone his mommy doesn’t have in her own eyes. Oh, and each of his eyes can work independently of the other.

My redfoot tortoise, Malti, and her rescued 3-toed box turtle brother, Bruce, each have the same visual acuity as Pearl. But instead of feathers, their spinal column is fused to an outer shell made of keratin-covered bony plates called scutes.

Tortoises and turtles don’t have the best hearing but their sense of smell is off the charts. And their smarts overall rivals that of canines and primates – some redfoot tortoises pick up new computer-aided treat tests faster than either.

With Pearl, Malti and Bruce, I reliably marvel. Their bodies – their minds – their senses – their very beingness – so wonderful! So amazing! So unrepeatable!

Often I suspect this is precisely why I feel so drawn to share my day-to-day life with descendants of this planet’s (arguably) longest-lived multi-celled inhabitants.

They don’t waste time worrying about what nature gave them. There is too much they can do with all their treasures to stay alive, survive and thrive.

With great respect and love,


Cultivating Respect for Our Bodies

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Songwriter. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). Cultivating Respect for Our Bodies. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jun 2020
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