The Leatherback Turtle

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by Laura Parker Roerden

Photography © Brian Skerry 2017. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


She asked not why leaving the water should call her,
even as she dragged herself onto the beach, a soldier,
crawling as her body thickened, while she sunk more
deeply into the sand than peace, softness rising to accommodate.

A sigh above her carried a mist along the beach, as befitting
a cloak or ritual. The moon was low in the sky, scattering ancient light
like dust. She turned now a sundial before settling at once and sifting
grains of sand and dew with her rear flippers toward a coming dawn.

She has left in her wake a grave-like hole, a bridge between worlds opening
as if Mercury himself were present; the tear-drop shape
of her nest an homage to watery renewal. She bears down to release
what was once hidden; a trail of potential spills forth. Tiny

opalescent moons soon, too, will be covered in darkness.
She asks nothing of her nest. Not a trace appears to be left of her heart’s
work, except to see itself as complete, as she makes her return
to the sea: a daughter now of a primordial promise.

The Leatherback Turtle © Laura Parker Roerden 2017. All rights reserved.

About the Photo by Brian Skerry, winner of 1st place, Wildlife Photograph of the Year, 2017, Behavior: Amphibians and Reptiles Category. 

Leatherback Turtles nesting and hatching at Sandy Point on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Sandy Point is a US Fish & Wildlife reserve that has some level of protection for wildlife. But the waters off this beach remain largely unprotected. Several species of sea turtles frequent these waters and nest on these beaches. All species of sea turtles are endangered, with leatherbacks being among the most endangered. Female leatherbacks return to beaches near where they hatched. Their eggs typically hatch approximately 60 days later, with often between 25-50 hatchlings emerging. They quickly crawl to the sea and begin a lifetime of perpetual swimming.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women in Sustainability. She lives on her fifth generation family farm in MA.

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Published by Laura Parker Roerden

Laura Parker Roerden shares a love of what nature can teach us. Writer, public speaker and supportor of youth to boldly know and save the wilds. She is the founding director of Ocean Matters and a fourth generation farmer and thinks today’s young people are reason to be hopeful about the many environmental problems facing us. She lives on a family farm in Massachusetts with her husband, three boys, and an assortment of fruit trees and farm animals.

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