News Alert 5.04.2011
"Sea turtles continue to wash ashore along the Gulf, forcing the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to scramble and figure out what is causing the spike. Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Huffington Post were first to publish blogs about the sea turtle deaths in Mississippi. Since then, the national media picked up the story. Last Friday, NMFS released a statement with some details about its investigation:
In the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in turtle strandings in the northern Gulf, primarily in Mississippi. The spring time is the typical time when turtle strandings in this region begin to increase, but the sharp increases in recent days are of concern to us….NOAA Fisheries is in contact with the states of MS and LA regarding current trawl and other fishery activity that can result in turtle by catch and mortality. In addition, tests will be done for biotoxins, such as those from harmful algae blooms, which are common in the Gulf. …All causes of death, including petroleum, will be investigated when possible based on decomposition. During a necropsy, the full GI tract is examined for product or evidence of oil ingestion. Additionally, samples are taken for PAH analysis. In addition, all turtles are being carefully examined for signs of external oiling."
I open my eyes on a sandy shore, and they are all hazy. My whole body is sore and burning in a way I never believed is possible. I need to go back to the water, this beach is too bright for me. And the smell, this penetrating stench is burning my lungs. What IS this horrible smell all over me? I have to get out of here. Oh, but the pain...I can't. I'll rest here for a while, it's too painful now to move away.
I try to look around, to understand where I am and how I got here. The beach is bright, and dry, and smells of death. The death is a presence here; I sense it in the air, I feel it in the sand, and now I see it too, next to me, even if my eyesight is blurred. Another Old One laying on the ground, not far away. From the complete absence of communication I know she's dead. Her carapace is peeling away like a skin; I can't look at it. She made the Final Travel.
I'm sad, hurt and my own body is too heavy to carry it around. Maybe I'm about to make the Final Travel too. Maybe that's it. I'm old, and my fight is over. I close my eyes with effort, because they are filled with burning water, and decide to wait. Before I know it, I slip back into the silent darkness of unconsciousness.
"Daddy, look, another one! Wow, this one is really big!"
"Brian, don't get too closer, we don't know what kind of disease they may have."
"You think is dead too?"
"It seems so."
"Wow! And there, look! It's that a turtle too?"
"Yea, it's a turtle."
" Why it's so orange?"
" They paint them in orange so when the people from the Marine Institute come to pick them up, they could see them from far away."
"But why this one here is not painted?"
"Brian, you ask too many questions. Maybe it just landed not so long ago, so they didn't found it yet. Don't get any closer!"
"And what they do with the turtles after they pick them up?"
"They try to find out why they died, son."
The strange screams are bothering me, and the instinct to run away forces me to open my sore eyes.
"Daddy, look, it's alive! Look, it tries to move!"
"Brian, stop screaming, you scary the poor thing. God help us, it's still alive."
"It's hurt, Daddy?"
"I don't know. I don't see any wounds. It smells of oil though."
"But it's crying!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Brian. Turtles don't cry."
"But look, daddy, tears! Look!"
The screams are going on and on; the land creatures are dangerously close now and I still can't move this painful body of mine. My heart is flooded with panic.
Suddenly I feel lifted; every desperate move in search for a solid ground it awfully hurts every inch of my being. The world is spinning around, so I have no choice than to stop moving and wait. If that's the Final Travel, it can be any longer now. I'm ready for it. Even if those predators didn't ripped me to pieces yet, I know that this is the end. I'm trapped.
I must have passed out again, because I wake up in a strange place, and I don't remember how I got here either. My body hurts just as bad as before, but nobody is trying to eat me, so I don't think I'm on the Other Side yet. It smells awful; beside that burning stench now familiar, there are a lot of foreign smells I never met before. I try to catch the dear scent of the ocean, but I can't find it. There are walls enclosing me, and above them I can see a little piece of blue sky. What kind of world is that? I'm old, almost the oldest of my generation, and I know all that it is to know, but I've never heard of a place like this. Could this be the Other Side?
A curious head full of hair poke in the sky above me, snuffing with vigor. The land creatures are all stinking.
"Hey, I know you are awake in there, so don't pretend you're still sleeping."
Here is one predator that wants to talk before eating me.
"I am Sasha, this is my home, and if you have any mischievous intentions I have to tell you right now that you'll have to deal with me first. I will protect this home and the people in it with my life, and you don't scare me with your size or with that weird rock you carry on your back. And by the way, you are the strangest creature I ever saw. You smell like you've slept under Dylan's car."
I'm so confused that all I can think of is a place to hide. What is he talking about? What is "people"? Where am I?
"You also smell like a fish. Are you a fish? You're surely quiet like one."
Not so smart, my snuffing buddy up there, but that's good. Maybe I can dodge him. Maybe I'm not his kind of food; he's a small one anyway. I begin to slowly crawl toward the closest wall, fighting the pain and the dizziness, trying to get as far as I can from the noisy creature.
"And where you think you're going?" he starts again. "One single move and I promise I'll alarm everybody, you hear me? I knew you're up to something, and now I'm glad you didn't fool me."
I think about that. From some mysterious reasons the Sasha creature seems to be unable to come inside my walls, so I ignore him and keep crawling.
"I'm very suspicious about you," he continues thoughtfully. "I'll watch you day and night, because I'm the only one brave enough to stand up to you. So that you know and don't try any dirty tricks."
I finally get at the wall, which don't offer me much protection. There's nowhere to run. He watch me in silence for a while.
"You know they saved you from the beach?" the Sasha creature asks again. I don't know what "saving" is, but I know I want to go back to beach.
"They even went there now to bring some sea water for you, so you can swim in that old garden pool over there. I don't understand what's the big fuss about you; you don't seem to express any gratitude. Aren't you grateful they saved you?"
I keep quiet and he's not content with that.
"You see? Beside that, you seem well enough right here; why you need a pool?" I don't know what "pool" is either, so I wait, lost in confusion.
"They say you are sick, and need treatment. Are you sick?"
I close my eyes with resignation ; it's impossible to understand the land creatures.
"I am devoted to my masters. I'm a very good dog, that's what Dylan always tells me. If you would be devoted to them too, and swear on your life not to ever hurt them, maybe I could be your friend. I have many balls that we could play with, you know?"
I know nothing anymore, and I'm so far away from home.
Suddenly he starts searching and snuffing around my walls again.
"Here they are! They came back with your water. No dirty tricks, you hear me? I'm watching you. Boy, this is going to be fun!" And the Sasha creature disappear from sight as sudden as he appeared.
A new round of lifting and handling me follows; this time I truly feel ripped apart as they rub my painful, immobile legs. Maybe those weird creatures are feeding on my suffering? Drifting in and out of consciousness, I don't understand why I don't die yet. I see flashes of the ocean, the blue water encasing me with peace. I realize I will never find my mate again; he must be on his way to the Great Stream, swimming freely in the vastness of the sea. I will probably never find the ocean again.
When they finally release me on the ground, I feel like the life was completely drained out of me. I also realize that the awful burning smell has faded from my skin. I don't want to move anymore, I don't want to draw another painful breath. But there is a new smell, and a wave of hope fills my fearful heart. It's the sweet fragrance of the ocean, distorted and mixed with hundreds of other scents, but still real; and is calling me. I vaguely see water, so I thorn my body to move toward it. Oh no, how this can be? This water is DEAD! This is not my ocean; there are no waves, no undercurrents, no life swarming in it. I can't FEEL this water.
With my last strength I just dive to the bottom of it and remain there, empty of any feelings.
The night is already covering the world when I resurface. There is no movement around, except for a white, fluffy creature that waits for me. So this is the dog Sasha, the mighty protector. I sense no threat from him, but his airborne wagging tail still confuses me. And he is a really small animal, now that I can see him in his entirety.
"Boy, I was sure you are dead! That was a good one, I can tell you this. You know how long you've been under water?"
I'm not impressed with his enthusiasm. I've been thinking a lot while down there, and I made up my mind.
"You must be a though kind of fish, I guess."
I look at him.
"Well, fish or not, I'm still not afraid of you. And be sure that I am still watching you."
"I'm not a fish," I answer him slowly. "We live in the ocean, where we are called The Old Ones, but we can also live on the land for periods of time. We DON'T eat other living beings, and don't attack them unless we need to protect ourselves." I draw a deep breath, and my lungs are on fire. "I don't know how I arrived in your world, but I must return to the ocean. I am hurt, and I think I'm going to die. I can't make my Final Travel in this puddle. And you talk way too much for such a small creature."
Surprised, the Sasha dog and his tail stop moving, and I see he is thinking of my words. Then he lays down next to my pool, quietly, and we both listen in silence to the soothing sounds of the night.
I am so tired; just dozing on and off all the time, while the afternoon sun is warming my tortured body. I prefer not to move, because all the pain is concentrated now inside me. I'm almost sure I'm gonna die.
Last night was a long night. Sasha the dog sat by my pool, and we talked. I learned about his world; a small, dirty and weird place, where animals like him where ruled by the creatures called "people", which Sasha seemed to dearly love. I told him about the blue, infinite world of oceans, where everyone is free, and nobody rules over other creatures. He was amazed to find out that we, the Old Ones, move and live in unrestricted ways, just as I was terrified to learn that he was completely dependable of his masters. The hardest thing for him to understand is freedom; as for me, I'm still contemplating the feeling of devotion.
People come and go to look at me all the time, and with Sasha's help I learned to recognize them; they are belonging to the same family. I know now that they don't desire my flesh. Still, every time one of them approach me I'm filled with panic; if what he said is true, their decision about my life will be as absurd and irrational as everything they do.
I doze off again. I'm in the ocean, swimming for the Great Stream; I flow effortlessly beneath the waves, while the sun rays are taking fantastic shapes in their dance under the surface. I feel at ease, and perfectly happy; my body remembers no pain, my eyes are clear and focused. And I keep going, free and content, I keep diving for that wonderful blue heaven.
The people's voices are waking me again; the rough sounds they make when they communicate bring me back to the reality of pain and captivity.
"There is nothing you can do for it, Dylan. The poor thing never had a chance to start with."
"What about the Marine Institute? Can they treat it somehow?"
"I don't think so. They don't have the right conditions to take care of it. My guess is that they will just wait for it to die, then will dissect it to fill out their reports. Is not their job to save injured sea turtles, just to report the damages."
"There must be something I can do."
I don't really care what people are talking about, I don't understand them anyway. I look for Sasha. He is always present when they come around my pool; but not this time. I close my eyes again; not that it will make any difference now.
"Dylan, it's too big to transport it in your car; look at the size of it. You will only worsen it's situation. A five hours trip? No way. And even if you get it there, somehow, it's too late."
I hear another human approaching, but I'm too tired to look at it.
"Mom, what are you doing here? You shouldn't get out of bed."
A weak voice I didn't hear before she joins the conversation.
"Hello, Doc. Nice to see you around."
"Nice to see you again, Ma'am. Hope you feel well today."
"Like always, Doc, like always. Getting through another day, waiting for all this to be over."
"Mom, please, don't start with that!"
I'm curious about the sadness in this new human voice, so I peek at it through my eyelids. It's an old female, even I can recognize the signs of time on her. It must be the Grandmother, as Sasha called her last night.
"So, Doc, what do you think? Is Dylan going to save the world this time?"
"Well, Ma'am, I'm sorry to say it, but not this one here. It's too old and too damaged to do something for her."
"You mean, it's a female?'
"Yes, Ma'am, a very old one. It wouldn't lived much longer anyway; maybe a year or two."
"So what do you say to do with it?" asks Dylan.
An odd silence. The old woman stare is fixed on me, which is unsettling.
"It's a matter of days, Dylan. Depends on how heavily intoxicated it is."
"Damn! I can't believe this! I just have to wait for it to die?"
"Believe me, there's nothing you can do now."
The old woman speaks again, and her voice is vibrating with a concealed emotion.
"Dylan, I think you should return the poor thing to the sea. You've heard what Doc said."
"What's the point, mom? It won't help her, don't you understand?"
The mother and son look at each other now.
"At least you will let her die with some dignity, in her own environment. At least she will die in peace."
The old woman turns around to leave, her glare pointed straight ahead, while her son steps forward to hold her trembling arm.
"Beside that, I don't want the kids to see it dying here; it's not a pleasant sight to watch."
The Doc follows them, changing the tone in an effort to lighten up the spirits.
"And where is Sasha? I didn't see HIM around."
"You know he's afraid of you and your syringe, Doc. Must be hiding somewhere until you leave, the little crook."
I doze off again as they slowly depart, and this time I don't dream at all.
"Hey, sleepy! Wake up! I have good news!"
Sasha is jumping with excitement, and his fluffy tail seems more restless than ever. It's almost night; a pleasant breeze fills my hurtful lungs with salty air. The memory of ocean makes my heart sink.
"Wake up! You hear me? I have great news!"
I move a little to let him know I'm awake, and that his screams are bothering me.
"Tomorrow morning we go for a trip! You, me and Dylan! Do you get that? A trip in the car!"
I don't understand what he's telling me, I only know is about me too.
"What, you don't get it? They take you back to the ocean! Boy, I get to see the ocean! You realize how great that is?"
I do. I'm going back home. A deep peace is filling my heart: I'm going back.
I look at that little dog, at his white fur blown by the wind, and I begin to understand a little about gratefulness.
"Hey, fluffy thing!" I call him.
He stops his dance of joy.
"Be careful not to fly away in the wind. I won't be able to bring you back."
The beach is empty and desolated under the cruel light of cloudy morning. It's still smelling of death, of despair and pain, but there are no dead bodies anymore.
Dylan puts me down really close to the water. I feel the spray of cold waves on my face, on my limbs, bringing my petrified body back to life.
Sasha is waiting in silence next to Dylan, overwhelmed by the furious sight of the ocean. We've said good bye before.
I gather all my strength and walk slowly into the waves, letting them embracing me, comforting me.
Then I dive under, where the life is, and swim freely with it. I go for the infinite blue heaven, deep down into the heart of Great Ocean, to become one with it.
I'm happy as I swim for my Final Travel.
Publication Date: 04-09-2011
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"For thousands of years we've been conquering Nature. Now we're beating it to death."