A turtle's gentle wisdom
By Michelle Stilipec
Tuckahoe State Park, an hour's drive from Fort Meade, is home to Adkins Arboretum and offers such recreational activities as camping, hiking and fishing. The park also rents canoes and kayaks, and it was for this reason that my husband and I sojourned there.
Canoeing and kayaking are two of the forgotten sports of the Olympic Games. Paddling is a low-impact aerobic activity that can provide increased flexibility and also strengthen muscles of the core, back and arms.
Propelling a craft through the water is only deceptively hard. With a little practice, a canoe is easily rowed by remembering to paddle in the opposite direction of where one wants to go.
Kayaks are a little harder as they require both upper and lower body action. Yet this stroke, too, is easily understood when we remember the movements of a simple mechanical toy. The forward stroke begins by pressing the stroke-side foot into the footpeg, continues through a rotation of the torso to place the paddle in the water near the foot, and ends as the paddle is brought backward toward the waist.
When there are two or more people in the boat, this precision ballet requires teamwork in both steering and communication.
Because of its eclectic waterways and varying depths, Tuckahoe is an enjoyable yet challenging creek. This course will improve their skills of beginner and intermediate rowers alike. The open waterway closes beneath trees, and then snakes around marshes and creek banks.
However, the leisurely pace is all the better to enjoy the park's wild bird and animal population, most prominently the diamondback terrapin, Maryland's official state reptile. The humble turtle has been imbued with a rich symbolism including such traits as patience, protection, longevity and strength.
Our visit to Tuckahoe gave us a greater appreciation for this animal. The shape of the turtle's shell along with his coloration of orange and green allowed him to blend in almost imperceptivity with the fields of lotus leaves. This camouflage continues even in the water, as the shape of his head and neck can resemble a simple twig bobbing up and down.
The turtles startle and submerge at the slightest noise, so it became necessary for us to think and act like turtles so as not to disturb them. We improvised a sign language whenever a turtle was spotted, even lifting our oars to allow the canoe to approach at turtle speed. We gazed in wonder at creatures reposed in sphinx, or else en la arabesque.
The frenzied pace of modern life has forced Americans to retreat away from Mother Nature so much so that this separation, whose symptoms may include hyperactivity and depression, has now been dubbed "Nature Deficit Disorder."
There is a growing recognition of the need to slow down and reconnect to the earth, a lesson that can be learned from a turtle's gentle wisdom.
Editor's note: Chad Jones is on vacation. Michelle Stilipec is this week's guest columnist. Jibber returns Sept. 6.
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May 25, 2013
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