Writing Outside in the Morning
November 2, 2018 § 5 Comments
By Heather O’Shea
The other morning while I was eating peanut butter toast and drinking coffee on the porch, a woman with a beagle trotted down the driveway. “Did you lose a turtle?” she asked. The leaves were breaking the sun into confetti spots of light, dappling the garden.
It was cool enough in Albuquerque to be wearing yoga pants and a light jacket. Rusty, my faithful golden retriever, was asleep, three-quarters of his body buried in a thick patch of lamb’s ear. I told the woman that I hadn’t lost a turtle, and we chatted for a minute while Rusty woke up and the dogs sniffed each other.
Then the beagle snapped at Rusty, and the woman tugged her dog back down the driveway. I took another bite of toast and went back to the lines I had been jotting down before she appeared. The sun moved a tiny bit across the sky.
“The thing is that I don’t want it to get run over,” she said, returning with the grumpy beagle. She was holding a turtle in her hand. “It has a Z on its back,” she told me, turning the turtle so I could see the neon slash of paint. “It must be someone’s pet.”
Z didn’t seem to mind dangling in thin air. He swiveled his head around and paddled his legs as though he were swimming through the sky. It was clear she was going to leave the turtle with me. I thought about explaining that it’s not my yard, that I’m a guest here, but it’s a big, beautiful garden. I don’t think Rusty or my good friend whose woods these are would mind sharing them with a turtle.
I had been playing with some lines that were trying to become a poem. It was morning, I was in a garden. There was an apple tree. The thing that makes light beautiful is the leaves, I was writing, and Mist rises from the chuparoso and … as though it were the first day. It wasn’t coming together.
She settled the turtle in the grass, and then she was gone again. I watched the turtle explore his new home. He was on the move, crossing the flagstones from the grass into the vinca, swinging his head through the tiny purple flowers. Rusty didn’t care. He had wandered over to the apple tree. He would pick up an apple, move it a few feet, and then set it down.
I watched for a few minutes while Rusty rearranged the apples under the tree. I added a word, moved a line, tried to remember the name of the little yellow flowers growing near the rosemary. A hummingbird, wings whirring like a motorbike, sipped clear nectar from a feeder hanging near my head.
Eventually I lost track of the turtle. I took a swig of coffee and watched the earth breathe and tried to make my poem say something that mattered about the world.
It’s morning on Guadalupe Trail.
Heather O’Shea is a freelance writer and author of the blog LiveLoveLeave.com. Her work has appeared in The Sun, the Daily Good, the Notre Dame Review, Blue Mesa Review, and Cold Mountain Review. Heather left a career in business for a career in education, and just left that career to fulfill her dream of writing full-time (on or off the lanai). Any day now, she will be looking for a publisher for BookEnds, her first novel.
“I watched for a few minutes while Rusty rearranged the apples under the tree. I added a word, moved a line, tried to remember the name of the little yellow flowers growing near the rosemary.” Beautiful. (It was a tortoise.)
Thanks, Jan! And I had no idea about the turtle/tortoise thing–it was fun to learn about the difference!
Ha! My husband had a pet tortoise as a child in Arizona. I have been seriously schooled about the difference. Tortoises in the desert, turtles live in water.
Thank you, Sara!