A local museum sent out a mailer announcing a Native American pottery show. It looked enticing plus I’d wanted to own a pottery piece for some time. I find the artwork calming and soothing, intricate and pleasing. I like its tradition, history, and connection to nature. For my first purchase I pictured a vase or a pot or a bowl with a pleasing design, modest in size and price. One day I’d graduate to a piece by the well-known artists at Mata Ortiz.
My husband and I arrived at the show to find several artists at work, painting designs with intricate strokes aided by fine-bristled brushes, patiently forming curved lines, straight lines, geometric shapes, and animal images. Painstaking work and very beautiful.
We were only there a few minutes when the piece below leapt into my hand like it was drawn to me and vice versa. Obviously a strange looking vase. Obviously, the farthest from my thoughts was a turtle. What was going on? I came to buy a vase, but I knew this turtle was going home with me.
What could possibly be the rationale for buying this sweet turtle? As I thought about it later, only one connection came to mind. It brought back a memory of being with my father. This was important because I don’t have too many father-based images from when I was a little girl. He worked, little kids were seen not heard, I played outside. I don’t recall my father being that much of a participant in my upbringing. As an adult we shared quite a few memories and experiences, but as a little girl, no.
He did teach me to roller skate and ride a bike. He put books in my hands. He took me ice skating once. I was given an American Flyer sled and a toboggan. But our experiences together were not numerous.
One day when I was about eight I did go with my father while he checked on a work site. He owned a plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning business and ran a small fleet of trucks with a number of employees. I loved to go with him, to be with my dad. But I always had to remember, he was working on these trips and rather engrossed.
One day we were driving along a rural road on the way to a custom home site. The road was wooded on each side, a creek not too far away. Suddenly he stopped the truck.
I looked through the windshield. What was I supposed to see? Then I saw a turtle with a shell about 8″ wide moseying along the roadside. My dad pulled to the shoulder.
“Quick,” he said. “Get the lunch out of the back.”
While my dad got out, I hopped out, reached behind the seat and grabbed the lunch my mother had packed. Were we going to have a picnic? My dad removed a sandwich from the paper bag and unwrapped it. The aroma of ham with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise escaped into the air. He removed some lettuce from the sandwich and pointed to the turtle.
“Here, give this to him.”
I looked from my dad to the turtle. Unsure, I took the lettuce and placed the piece in front of said turtle and he ate it. He seemed a gentle soul. My father joined in the feeding. The turtle soon took pieces of lettuce from our fingers. We tried some pieces of bread. The turtle ate. We tried some pieces of tomato. The turtle ate. We tried a little piece of ham. He ate that, too. We lingered with the turtle until my dad said we had to move on, minus most of a sandwich.
This happy, unexpected interlude never left me. My dad and I laughed together, watching the turtle enjoy a first class ham sandwich. I think the turtle that found my hand at the pottery show must have been an ancestor of that lucky little fella crawling along the roadside so many years ago. Whatever karma occurred, I thank a pottery turtle for reminding me of a special moment.
I did buy my new turtle a companion.
The museum I mentioned is not too far from my home. If you’re ever in the Palm Springs area, you’ll want to visit this unique place. It’s called Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs. It’s where I went to buy a small vase, but bought a turtle instead.