Broken Turtles and Spiritual Journeys

“Follow the turtle home,” repeated the box turtle, as he danced across the night sky. Each step sent a cloud of stardust flying, which left a sparkling wake behind him. “Follow the turtle home,” I heard again and again.

When the drumbeat stopped, I came out of my first shamanic journey experience confused. What could that message mean?

In the six years since that journey, I have been following the turtle home. It began slowly, subtly, with small changes. A friend who was with me at that shamanic journeying workshop gifted me a journal with turtles on the cover, then other turtle-related things, to honor the experience. It was the start of my exploration of shamanism and, beginning the following year, my study of Shamanic Reiki. These spiritual pursuits helped me to come home to myself, and I believed I now understood the message.

red eared slider turtle basking

my first read eared slider turtle, Charley, basking, a few days after she came home with me

Then came the turtles.

It was New Year’s Eve, we were getting ready to usher in 2017, and I wanted a turtle. The desire had been building for a few months, and I finally got a “yes” from my spouse. We came home from the pet shop with a small red eared slider and a starter tank. I was now a newbie turtle keeper.

I lost my father suddenly later in 2017, and grief led me down an unexpected path. It is odd, looking back, the way seemingly unrelated events weave together into meaning and purpose. Throughout his life, my dad was committed to service. As I moved through the grieving process, being of service became my mission. My Shamanic Reiki practice had brought me into deeper connection with Earth, and I wanted to serve in a way that honored that connection.

A year and a day after my father’s death, I received my New York State wildlife rehabilitation license in the mail. I was going to help broken turtles – shells cracked by cars running over them – heal.

The journey did not end there, of course, and there is more to tell in future posts. The message to follow the turtle home was not a simple directive. There are layers of meaning in those words from my first helping spirit, but I am sure of one thing:  broken turtles are part of my spiritual journey, and I am indeed following the turtle home.

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