“Whenever I see these little turtles I am reminded during this time of uncertainty that we just take it one day at a time, keep swimming like these little turtles, take pleasure in little things like a delicious bite of food or being able to stretch our little flippers. And so, let’s be like turtles and let’s stay positive.” – Talitha Noble, Conservation Coordinator

Talitha Noble draws her inspiration from sea turtles and has previously shared some of the life lessons she has learned from these animals. The little turtle hatchlings that wash up on our shores have more lessons for us, especially during this time of lockdown. These little guys are often dehydrated, weak, injured and suffering from hypothermia – after all, they prefer the warmer waters further up our coast towards KwaZulu-Natal. After hatching on the beaches there and managing to clamber their way across the beach, dodging predators and avoiding the heat of the sun, hatchling turtles bravely pitch themselves into the waves of the ocean and are carried out, away from the beach by the currents. The start to their journey is already filled with uncertainty and danger and yet off they go, filled with anticipation of where they might be heading. Of course, turtles do what turtles do without emotion or thought as we know it, but when we think of the obstacles, like plastic pollution, that these little guys have to overcome in order to survive to adulthood, we could pause and reflect on the lessons they can teach us, especially when we are faced with a crisis in our own lives.

Set a target and focus with determination

When turtles hatch from their eggs buried high up in the dunes they have one mission – to get to the ocean. They are determined, they are focused and they don’t get distracted, except when confronted by predators, of course! During this time, we can persevere with the determination of a turtle – we can keep focused on the daily tasks at hand by setting a routine that will help us get through each day. As we do each task, be it caring for the children, playing with the dog, cooking for the family, or getting down to some work, we focus all our energy on that particular moment so that we do it with gusto and full-heartedness.

Go with the flow

Once out in the ocean turtle hatchlings are swept into the currents where they drift for years. Hatchlings are buoyant, meaning they can’t dive, so they really are at the mercy of the currents. We can also choose to go with the flow and accept where we are, instead of fighting against it and exhausting ourselves. When we accept what IS, rather than focusing on what IF, our suffering lessens, our load lightens and we can go with the flow.

Containment is not forever

When the little turtles arrive at the Aquarium they are cleaned up, measured and weighed, and then each assigned to their own little tank with not four, but five glass walls. This must be quite an adjustment for these little fellows who are used to being out in the big wide deep blue. For many of us being confined to our homes during lockdown is a similar experience – we are used to being out and about, going to work, going shopping, hanging out with friends and families – and now we’re shut in.

This state of affairs won’t last forever – as President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “This pandemic will pass, but it is up to us to determine how long it will last.” We need to sit tight and stay at home, and realise that, like the five-sided glass tank, our homes are where we need to be right now for our own safety and health. The big blue awaits turtles, and us humans on the other side of the lockdown!

Appreciate the small things

In the recent turtle update from Talitha, she introduces us to #2 Nibbles, who “gets so excited that he often tries to nibble at the food still outside his tank”. There is no doubt that lockdown is frustrating, frightening, boring, lonely… we’re missing out on so much out there! Like a turtle we can choose to appreciate the small things and the not-so-small things that we have around us instead of thinking of all the things we don’t have. If we can find one thing to get excited about every day then we’re doing great!

Hatchling #9 being overexcited because he's spotted food.

Let go of what’s on the other side

After the little turtles have completed their rehabilitation time with Talitha and her team it is time for them to be released back into the ocean. Some of the turtles might have been with us for up to a year and may just have grown accustomed to their sheltered lives where food is always on hand and conditions are stable and known. Then one day, it is time to go back to the wild and back to a life of uncertainty.

As the little turtles are placed back in the sea by caring hands, there is no time for holding back or looking back – the turtles bravely swim off into the deep blue. We don’t know what is on the other side of the lockdown – what our country will look like economically and socially, or how the rest of the world will emerge from the pandemic. While we may want to panic about not knowing what the future holds, it may be helpful to remember that actually we don’t even know how each day will unfold. But instead of holding on and trying to control our lives now and in the future we can, like the little turtles, swim fearlessly into the unknown. Just Keep Swimming!

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