Turtle Visitor

A wildlife biologist smitten with wood turtles makes an evening presentation at my library, turtle in tow.

The room fills with people I know, and some I don’t know — a little girl from Montpelier with her grandfather whose family has owned a lakeside camp in Woodbury for 100 years. The trustees bring homemade desserts; there’s cold cider; we borrow chairs from the elementary school’s second floor gymnasium. In the humidity, I wipe sweat from my forehead with the school’s paper towels.

An older couple brings their dog, who otherwise would have cowered alone at home, if thunderstorms moved in.

These evenings are a microcosm of small town Vermont: one woman quietly counsels another about obtaining a medical referral. The kids pile a paper plate with brownies. Another woman raids my book sale, asks for a box, and says she’ll drop a check by later.

In the end, I lock up, saying goodnight to the silent 100-year-old schoolhouse. So many people have gone through these doors; so much living has happened here.

In my library, next door, I glance around at a bit of chaos — a pile of old buttons in a pie plate the children have strung into necklaces, picture books on the floor.

Enough for one day. I turn off the light, lock the door, and walk out into the cooling-down rain-sweet night.

And over the grass at the roadside a land turtle crawled, turning aside for nothing, dragging his high-domed shell over the grass: His hard legs and yellow-nailed feet threshed slowly through the grass, not really walking, but boosting and dragging his shell along.

— John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939



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