Essay: Parental Support

Oct 5, 2018

My husband and I are traveling in the Upper Peninsula and stop at a state park for a picnic lunch. Walking across the parking lot, I glance down at the asphalt pavement and see a small turtle, maybe two inches long. Dick picks it up and turns it over. “Painted turtle,” he says. “I’ll put him back in the lake.”

“How did he get here?” I ask. The parking lot is a long ways from the lake—and a dangerousplace for a newborn. “No parental support,” Dick says and heads toward the beach. Isit on the tailgate of our truck and review what I know about mother turtles, how they carefully lay their eggs and then consider the job done. When the babies emerge months later, they’re on their own—trusting to instinct and luck for protection. It’s not very much. Predators are everywhere and so are parking lots. “No parental support,” he said and I think about how risky this is for any creature. We all knowpeople—perhaps even ourselves—who have suffered the consequences. Dick finally returns and I ask what took him so long. “I walked down the shore until I found a marshy place,” he says, “away from the swimmers.”