Yesterday evening my family went out to the beach to watch a sea turtle nest excavation with the Tybee Sea Turtle Project. About five days after a nest hatches, the turtle people are allowed to dig it up to see what’s left. The volunteers count the number of hatched shells, unhatched shells, live babies, and dead babies. At the end, everything is put back into the nest and recovered with sand except, of course, the live babies. They are carried to the water’s edge and released, hopefully to make their way to the Sargasso Sea, grow up, and continue the cycle.
So we stood, with a small crowd of other interested people, on the beach in the rain watching the nice lady scoop sand out of the loggerhead nest. Each scoop was quickly sorted: sand, shell fragments, dead babies, live babies. Our nest yielded up 18 live little turtles, each one just a few inches long, and about eight unfortunate turtles who failed to make it. The crowd delighted in each baby who waved its little flippers at us.
After the nest was completely excavated and everything was counted, the bucket of babies was carried down to the water line. The volunteers lined up the little guys facing the ocean and we all watched them go, cheering them on as the waves toppled and turned them.
It was a moment ripe with meaning and metaphor. The little turtles, so small and vulnerable, embarking on their epic voyage against incredible odds because that is what they were born for. They consider no alternatives. They do not shrink back in fear. They crawl across the sand, tumble through their first waves, and press on to swim. And swim. And swim. Across hundreds of miles of open ocean.
They are so tiny as they step off into the seemingly limitless horizon. I want to scoop them up and take care of them, protect them from all kinds of hazards. But that is no good. I’m sure there is no sea turtle who would willingly forfeit his chance in the sea. They do not seek safety. They seek their destiny. May it be the same for us.