While my husband was dying–in fact while he had fewer than three months left with us, though we all held hope for longer–we all packed up for his dream trip, which instantly became ours.
Along the way, we met The World’s Most Interesting Man (the real thing) and, from a distance, encountered Lonesome George.
Lonesome George is a giant land tortoise thought to be the last of his species. While he has plush accommodations at the Charles Darwin Research Center, including his own pool, he has no mate.
It is not for lack of trying; unseemly public attention has been brought to his romantic travails. Tortoise carapaces, we learned from the aforementioned Most Interesting Man (who will get his own post one of these days), are uniquely designed in each species, and lack of fit is an insurmountable issue (as it were) in successful tortoise mating. George requires, literally, an engineering feat to partake of “joys with like relation.”
Among all the miraculous creatures we saw in Ecuador, it is Lonesome George who continues most often to revisit me.
I don’t know why I reached for a turtle poem that day at the beach, when my children planted a bouquet for their father. I am not sure why it spoke to me in such a way as to seem worthy of Jim: a tale of a solitary, shelled creature in the city, transported back to live where it belongs.
I don’t know why my husband brought me a stuffed tortoise from another trip he made years earlier with our daughters. It was an uncharacteristically whimsical choice.
I cannot help but think of Paulina in The Winter’s Tale:
There’s time enough for that;
Lest they desire upon this push to trouble
Your joys with like relation. — Go together,
You precious winners all; your exultation
Partake to every one. I, an old turtle,
Will wing me to some wither’d bough, and there
My mate, that’s never to be found again,
Lament till I am lost.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon