Turtle Tries to Travel, Take 4: The First 3 Weeks

by Rina Caldwell

Someone once told me that you can get through anything if you have access to a clean bathroom—I disagree. For me, it isn’t the clean bathroom that’s important for emotional survival.

As a turtle I spend much of my time obsessively creating safe spaces in my immediate surroundings, learning ways to make safe spaces for the future, and reinforcing old safe spaces. I spent the entirety of my first three weeks in Los Angeles carving out safe spaces. The number of sacred and secret spaces I created throughout the surrounding cities soon rose over those first three weeks, and I didn’t stop creating them.

The process looked something like this:

Photo Credit: XploreLA.com

“The spectacle of the Santa Monica pier wrapped around my unfinished sentences like a protective wall…” Photo Credit: XploreLA.com

The spectacle of the Santa Monica pier wrapped around my unfinished sentences like a protective wall, and gave breeze to wandering questions that could now materialize in ripples of change. I had nooks and crannies and corners carved out of ornate libraries, wild gardens, old palm tree parks, parks that in small ways looked like home, and mountains—cities, too. In cracks of concrete between sweating bodies, I made small floating homes in which my mind could construct a safe sense of wonderment. Alongside wandering bleeding men who were in ways turtles too, I secretly made my own sidewalk homes. Also, anywhere there was coffee. A small white car stood in for the small white steed and I wore my trope like a plastic name tag.

Creating safe spaces is an acknowledgement of perceived danger—I think. My projections of the future turned dark and cold. A sense of unease perpetually crept alongside my resilient sense of adventure. At least I always knew where the unease could be found.

Soon, the number of sacred and secret spaces I created within my own breezy home rose to a concerning quantity, and as each new space was created, an old space was torn down. Soon, I had few places left to call safe.

The lemon tree in the backyard became a symbol of wilting delusion and calculated promises; the piano in the oak living room, a place of competition and derision; the glass-framed kitchen a place of rivalry; the mangled family room a place of power plays and the rhetoric-of-madness; the lavender bathroom a place of friction and submission; my room a place under siege. My bed was my own.

So long as there’s a pillow I can count on supporting my neck at the end of the day —
(No-stopping) a nest is a turtle’s throne and
Pillows make good nests,
So dump your laundry on my bed and
See what (long-sweet-subtle) bite (snap) follows,
A turtle knows war when she sees it.
I know war when I see it.

Pillows and beds — much like a nest — are two of my most useful tools for creating physical spaces that encourage a physiological state of safety. (I might be crazy to suggest this but) when I recreate a sense of safety in unstable or harrowing environments, I feel as though I can fly. Not like an eagle, or an albatross, or an angel, or Superman, or Tinker Bell, but more like a fragile nymph at war.

Why the focus on these small manufactured bubbles of emotional safety and illusion? There’s such a thing as hidden thoughts — hidden craftsmanship, hidden persons and feelings, hidden desires to touch and taste and breathe in hidden ways — that no one can make calloused or broken.

tom bombadil

“So there’s no way to not need a resting place—a place to blossom.”

They grow up out of gentle paths that require delicate handling,
Our mundane is rugged and our adventures require pain.

So there’s no way to not need a resting place — a place to blossom.
Perhaps many small ones strategically placed — for a more desperate soul, with more hidden seeds.

Are hidden thoughts and mixed moments the motivation of each action we live by (how much do questions cost?)
(We live by) progress that tramples our mixed moments and thoughts,
in order to make actions progress
because progress is what we live by in its most linear form.

Once upon a time a young girl was trapped in a high tower. Except the tower was not so high and she had French doors leading to the backyard (the one with the lemon tree) to use for escape. But trapped she was—trapped in a labyrinth of forgotten intention and mixed moments and frenzied displaced affection. She did not believe the stories about charming princes and their valiant steeds, or rescue missions.

She did have four dear friends who believed in her.


“She did have four dear friends who believed in her.”


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