Recently a treasured friend from social media sent me a link to an article about a woman in Manhattan who just happens to be the enormous area’s only (as in, sole, solo) turtle rehabilitator.
Now that sounds like a big job.
Not surprisingly, at 72, Lori Cramer says she has saved hundreds upon hundreds of turtles and tortoises over her many decades to date as Manhattan’s official “turtle triage specialist” and now as the director of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society.
She does her work out of a tiny apartment she shares with her husband, with the agreement that the bathroom and (ideally) their bedroom will stay turtle-free at all times.
After following a link or two in that first article, I found myself reading about Brooklyn’s “turtle lady,” an amazing woman named Sara Ramos who is to Williamsburg what Lori Cramer is to Manhattan. Like Cramer, Ramos blows me away. She shares her tiny Brooklyn pad with 60 tortoises and several other interspecies flock mates. To hear her tell it, 100 percent of the turtles are potty-trained.
For the record, that is 100 percent more than the number of turtles that are potty trained in our little flock.
I am so moved by these women’s stories I can hardly find the words. Truly. I cannot think of a better use of a life. Period.
Reason being, when you help a turtle (or any wild creature), it is nearly impossible to do so with strings attached. It is a gift of pure compassion, pure love, pure kindness. It is spending time with the best part of yourself – the part you will never not love, not even for a minute.
This last feels especially relevant right now, today, as our country and our planet continues to grapple with the impact of a raging pandemic coupled with raging racial tensions coupled with a raging recession and all the raging uncertainty, anxiety and fearfulness that comes along with it.
As Lori Cramer tells the New York Post, when the news of what is going on in the world feels just too horrible, she can spend time with her animals.
She calls her work rehabilitating turtles “a saving grace.”
Sara Ramos tells the Brooklyn Eagle that “you can tell when a turtle is comfortable.” She says it is easy to see that turtles are capable of loving and being loved. They mourn and grieve when owners die or they get rehired.
As a lifelong turtle lover and surrogate mama to two shells, a redfoot tortoise named Malti and a rescued box turtle named Bruce, I wholeheartedly concur with all of the above. Just because Malti, Bruce and I are different species doesn’t mean we can’t communicate. We find a way and it becomes even more meaningful in the challenge it presents. The same holds true for me and my 21-year-old soul bird, Pearl.
My animals and even simply the sight of wild turtles sunning themselves along the banks of our local bayou has kept me going over the long and often lonely and confusing months of this year thus far.
When I get all knotted up inside myself with what is missing from my life and all the experiences I cannot have due to the pandemic, my finances, my age, my general level of life ineptitude, etc, etc, my animals and nature snaps me back to the basics.
I have oxygen. Water. Food. Climate control. A car with a full tank of gas when I want to go somewhere. Parents I love who love me back. No obvious predators who are scoping me out for their dinner plate. And I have my animals.
I have my precious, perfect animals who give me so much more than I could ever possibly give to them.
I feel sure that if you are reading this post right now, you care deeply about nature, our planet, the animals and plants and other beings that rely on it just like I do.
Why else would you devote a few minutes of your time to these words when there are so many other words to be read?
Perhaps, like me, you have found yourself retreating again and again and again to nature, to your own animals and plants, to news about the natural world, as the unexpected events of these last several months have continued to unfurl and evolve.
It is a hard truth to take in that the world itself may be both our greatest refuge and also the resource that is most in danger from our own hand.
Happily, just before the pandemic started, I discovered a community of activist souls who share my absolute love and passion for nature.
Many in this community are biologists, herpetologists, naturalists, zookeepers, wildlife rehabilitators, animal trainers and – for lack of a better description – “nature whisperers” who spend any and all free time immersed in nature conservation at many different levels.
Many more are nature lovers who seek a community of like-hearted homo sapiens with which to share the joy, wonder and hope that is the natural world.
This community is called Mammalz.
It is a free platform, similar in many ways to Instagram, but focused on one topic and one topic only: nature. The ultimate goal for participating in Mammalz is to offer anyone and everyone who cares about nature a chance to share what the natural world looks like through their eyes.
It’s a pretty cool place to hang out during a pandemic and anytime.
Anyone can join in and participate either through the website or the iOS app.
For anyone reading this who deeply cares about what happens to this shared planet of ours and wants to make a difference – even if all you have is a handful of seconds or minutes each day – you are invited to be a part.
Our little flock can’t wait to see you there!
With great respect and love,