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  • Writer's pictureDrew Dotson

Lessons from a sea turtle

As my mom and I walked along the beach one morning last week, I saw movement a few feet ahead. It was a baby sea turtle—a hatchling—flipped on his back along the shoreline. My immediate instinct was to flip him over and help him to sea, but I paused, uncertain if I’d inadvertently cause harm.

a baby sea turtle flipped on its back
That sweet face

In perfect timing, we noticed an ATV up ahead—Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol, a nonprofit that helps turtles along beaches near Jacksonville, Florida. Over the years we’ve gone to Ponte Vedra Beach, we’ve grown familiar with the patrol. Every morning, they cruise the beaches, monitoring sea turtle nests and activity. They evaluate how successful each clutch is. (I first wrote “batch,” then “litter,” then I resorted to Google. It’s a clutch of sea turtles! I guess I’m a sea turtle expert now.) We waved the cart down, and they headed our way. “Good eye!” a patroller said as she flipped the tiny turtle over. He attempted to head to sea, but the little guy was struggling.

“He looks strong, but he’s tired,” the other patroller observed as the turtle’s progress halted. “Let’s put him in the bucket,” the first patroller decided. She removed a bucket from the back of the cart and gently placed the turtle in the 3 to 4 inches of damp sand at the bottom. “We’ll give him 20 minutes to rest and catch his breath, then rerelease him up shore.” They drove away with the hatchling in tow, and my heart was happy. I read a lot of books about living your best, most meaningful life, and I often get fixated on the elusive idea of “purpose”—always wondering what I was placed on this planet to do. But, that morning, my purpose seemed quite clear: to help a distressed sea turtle. It reminded me of this Emily Dickinson poem—because I guess I’m a poetry expert now, too. If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain. If you, too, are on an endless quest to discover what you’re meant to do, I get it. It’s as exhausting as a turtle hatchling's journey to the vast sea. But, if you give your attention to the present moment, as I did that morning, you might find glimpses of purpose in every day. Maybe your path is your purpose.

Maybe it's actually that simple.

a baby sea turtle making its way to sea
Best wishes, little guy!

P.S. If you haven't joined the party yet, Love Per DM is in full swing! Here's how to look behind the scenes at how I met Ramón:

Today we release new messages!

1 Comment

K Sue Bowen
K Sue Bowen
Sep 29, 2023

Priceless encounter! The poem you shared is one I try to live by. Thank you Drew!

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