Life Lessons

Posted on August 2, 2011


Wisdom From A Turtle

“Turn around slowly, time is a racer

The wink of an eye takes you from here to there

Turn around slowly and treasure your days here

These precious moments may come to be rare.” 

Life is not a race. And in case
you were not aware, the person who finishes first doesn’t necessarily win. Yet,
more often than not, we go about doing life as if life itself depended on us to
survive. Why is that? How come it takes disasters, failing health, old age or
some other set back before we realize we’re moving at a pace where everything
around us is but a blur?

I went for a walk-about the other
day with camera in hand in search of fawns, but instead of finding any spotted
baby deer I found something that I didn’t think I was looking for. Something
that turned out to be of greater benefit. A valuable lesson imbued upon me from
a turtle.


Crouched next to a small inlet at
the head of a tiny pond I watched painted turtles poking their snouts above the
water. In between lily pads they would swim, no real agenda, none that I could
see anyway. Occasionally they would dive going down deep after the small
minnows that were swimming, returning once again to the surface for another
breath of fresh air.

And then, despite the physical
effort required, the turtle climbed upon a floating log to sit, rest and soak
up the rays of sunshine, which provided me with some remarkable images.
Although my initial intent was to locate fawns to photograph, here I was,
fascinated and fully immersed into clicking off shots of turtles and at the
same time, doing some reflective meditation.


Mac Anderson wrote in The Dash,
“I once heard someone say, “We don’t remember days; we remember moments. If we
could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real…” However, at todays
hectic pace we often forget to savor small pleasures while we make big plans.
In the race to be better or best, we sometimes lose sight of “just being.” And
just being, just soaking in and savoring a beautiful moment, can provide some
of life’s greatest pleasures. A crackling fire on a cold winter night; a good
book; a love letter from your spouse; a spectacular sunset; a great meal; or a
timeless moment with your child, (grandchild) or a friend…these moments, if
we stop long enough to enjoy, are the essence of life.”


As I sat there soaking in the
tranquility, listening to the occasional frog croaking, bird’s chirp and water
slowly cascading past it dawned on me, that nature; wildlife might know how to
conduct their life better than man. We race and run and to what end? We worry
and fret about that which we have no control. We labor to gain that which we
ultimately cannot keep. And yet, seldom do we stop to smell the flowers, and
more often than not, we don’t even notice them.


The Psalmist wrote “Be still, and
know that I am God;” realizing that only through stopping can you see beyond
yourself. And the wisest man to ever live, King Solomon penned in the book of
Ecclesiastes, “…that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the
strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding,
nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Suddenly, my silence was broken
by the little scurrying footfall of a busy chipmunk in the dry leaf litter.
Watching him dash and dart about reminded me of the hectic pace we impose upon
ourselves. His flurry was not bound by clocks, agendas or schedules; no, he was
doing what he was designed to do, gather his food from God.

After two-hours of delicious
solitude, as the air was heating under a hot July sun it was time for me to
leave. But beyond some photographs, what was I taking away from this
experience? After all, I indeed learned, or should I say, was reminded of some
important lessons from none other than a simple turtle. Yet, according to Job,
we certainly can and should learn from wildlife as he writes, “But ask the
beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell


I realized that just knowing
something isn’t enough: I know that doughnuts consumed in large quantities are
not good for me, but if I eat them anyway that knowledge becomes lost on me. I
must act on what I know to be right and true. So, I began to inquire of myself
the following line of questions. Are you so self-important that you can’t be
replaced? Are you arrogant enough to believe you’re the best at your craft and
in order to maintain that status requires all of your time and effort? Why do
you allow yourself to become stressed? Why do you make deadlines that are difficult
to keep? Do the things you own and have labored for own you? Do you take for
granted each day, each breath, each sunrise and sunset?


Regardless of how I answered any
of those inquiries and many more just like them, the sum of the matter lies in
the fact that I have the ability to control my own actions. I choose and when I
don’t choose wisely I miss out on what is most valuable in life … those
moments, those unrecoverable moments.

“It’s not the things we get but
the hearts we touch that will determine our success in life. Making a
difference in the lives of others is what the dash is all about. In the end,
however, the significance of our life will be determined by the choices we
make. We can choose positive over negative, smiles over frowns, giving over
taking and love over hate. It is only when we take responsibility for our
choices that we begin to realize we truly are the masters of our fate. Only
then will our lives begin to change for the better.” – Mac Anderson


As I walked away, I smiled warmly
to the indifferent turtle and quietly thanked him for reminding me of what was
really important in life … something greater than myself.

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier.

© 2011 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.