Flippers on the Shore This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Noble was the eagle perched way up high.
Proud was his gaze as it swept all around
Detailed was his vision as he looked way below
His eyes did fall on the swimming turtle below

The just and wise turtle deliberated the ocean in front of her. Fifty years old was she and many a moon had she seen. Many a year it had been since she had been on the sandy beaches. Her journey in this life had begun there and that’s where she was headed tonight.

The light had not faded and she was still visible to many. The eagle swooped silently and swiftly intent upon his chosen prey. A shudder, an instinct came over the swimming turtle. A feeling born out of this journey done over millennia by her kin. With a swish of her flippers, she dived into the murky waters below. The eagle’s claws grasped at empty air and the spray of the ocean. With a disappointed cry, the eagle soared up to start his search anew.

The sun set in a blaze in the west
The ocean lit with colors infinite
Dolphins in bunches leapt in dance
Ecstasy at this symphony of light

The turtle and her kin watched the dance of the dolphins from a distance. Streaks of light they appeared as they leapt in the fading sun. Very close came a baby humpback to the turtle. The baby was frolicking in the last rays of the sun. Leaping out of the sea with inborn grace, he chased another whale. Though a baby, he seemed a giant to the turtle. Though she knew there was no danger from him, she still was glad she went unnoticed by him.

The moon slowly rose out of the western horizon. But this moon was waning and there was not much light. A collective sigh of relief from all was felt – darkness has its uses as it shields you from being prey. So continued on the turtle and the thousands that swam by her. An important journey was this and the stakes were high.

The coastline soon appears nigh
With sandy beaches stretching for miles
Waters adding touches of warmth
As the turtles approach the sandy shores

The turtle an elegant swimmer of the sea, stumbles clumsily onto the shore. Using her flippers, she pushes herself up the beach. This beach is not like before. She moves over a rusty can and feels her soft skin cut. She stops feeling confused. Then she remembers her task and moves on, ignoring her discomfort. She smells strange smells and hears the distant bark of a dog. She travels as far as she can and feels the sand under her. Using her back flippers she starts to dig a long narrow hole. Into this hole, she lays a nine dozen slimy ping-pong sized eggs.

New smells come her way. Are they the dreaded raccoons after her precious cargo? Quickly she begins to cover her eggs. Flippers are not ideal for sand but she has a job that needs to be done. She joins in the rhythmic dance of other turtles on the sand over her eggs. This dance learnt from generations past will help compact the sand over her eggs and keep them safe. The beat of a thousand soft drums is heard on the beach that night.

Slowly she shuffles down the beach. Surrounded she is by thousands like her. As she journeyed towards the shore, she and her kin had wondered, “Are we there yet?”. Her job now done, her thought is only of the beckoning sea. Plunging into the ocean, the powerful flippers are once again the turtle’s pride.

Is the journey over as the lone turtle thinks? It has just begun for those thousand eggs on the shore. In years to come, will they too not ask, “Are we there yet?”

Epilogue
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Three months pass as we return to the beach
A rustle, a flutter is felt on that beach.
Gulls and shorebirds all pause for a while
Listening to the sounds from under the sands

The noise is subtle at first, a crack here and a crack there. The tempo increases as more eggs start to hatch. Baby turtles emerge from those ping-pong sized shells and dig their way out from the nest. Thousands of tiny green heads appear on the surface of the gleaming sands.

Natural instinct programmed within tells the turtle what to do. Her life, her goal is the call of the sea. Raising her head, she takes air into her mouth. A sniff of the air tells her the direction she needs to go. Clumsily she pushes her way to the sea. The question from all thousand turtles on the beach was the same, “Are we there yet?

The shorebirds watch the journey with greed in their eyes. So many turtles, so there was no need for a fight. Young hapless turtles are very prey. Oh what a feast it was, they had on that beach that day.

Our young turtle plods steadily on towards the sea. The air is filled with the cacophony of hungry birds. A turtle to her right, a turtle to the left, fall prey to a bird. “Will I ever reach my destination,” was the lingering question on her mind.

Her flippers feel wet sand and relief is insight. A few feet more is all she needs to crawl. A few more pushes and she feels the sea on her skin. Delighted flippers now propel the turtle into the safety of the sea.

Out of the thousand turtles that started on shore only a few hundred made it to the sea that night.

As for the question “Are we there yet?”, it remains a question. Generations have asked it and will continue asking it.





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