Miracle. All of it.


They come, lumbering, from the many ponds. They dare the dangers of path, dogs, the highway, the accumulating heat that their bodies cannot regulate, or the equally stunning, always possible cold. Take one, then. She has reached the edge of the road, now she slogs up the impossible hill. When she slides back she rests for a while, then trundles forward again. Emerging wet from the glittering caves of the pond, she travels in a coat of glass and dust. Where the sand clings thickly the mosquitoes, that hover about her like a gray veil, are frustrated. Not about her eyes, though, for as she blinks the sand falls; so at her tough, old face-skin those winged needles hang until their bodies fill, like tiny vials, with her bright blood. Each of the turtles is a female, and gravid, and is looking for a place to dig her nest. […]

I saw the tracks immediately— they swirled back and forth across the shuffled sand of the path. They seemed the design of indecision, but I am not sure. In three places a little digging had taken place. A false nest? A foot giving a swipe or two of practice motion? A false visual clue for the predator to come? I leashed my two dogs and looked searchingly until I saw her, at one side of the path, motionless and sand-spattered. Already she was in the nest— or, more likely, leaving it. For she will dig through the sand until she all but vanishes— sometimes until there is nothing visible but the top of her head. Then, when the nesting is done, she thrusts the front part of her body upward so that she is positioned almost vertically, like a big pie pan on edge. Beneath her, as she heaves upward, the sand falls into the cavity of the nest, upon the heaped, round eggs. She sees me, and does not move. The eyes, though they throw small light, are deeply alive and watchful. If she had to die in this hour and for this enterprise, she would, without hesitation. She would slide from life into death, still with that pin of light in each uncordial eye, intense and as loyal to the pumping of breath as anything in this world.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Sister Turtle” in Upstream: Selected Essays (2016)



  • Photo: Brent Fleming, Nesting Sea Turtle
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.


  1. No matter how many times I have listened to Sir Richard Attenborough describe such purposeful migrations (and man, I love these documentaries), Mar Oliver still captures its magic, the intentional, Herculean effort as no one else.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.


  3. roseanne333 says:

    Love this. Thank you, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is something intensely comforting about the steadiness of this ritual, the singularity of purpose, the selflessness in action, that takes my breath away. And in Oliver’s hands…words woven together in a shimmering skein…it’s even more magical. “…she travels in a coat of glass and dust.” Wow.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. The burden and effort. The ease of taking on such a gargantuan and natural task. Mary Oliver captures it all and more. 💛

    Liked by 3 people

  6. When living in Hawaii, we often basked in the sun, noting nearby, the massive disks of grey held vigil. The turtles, much more “alive” in the water, glazed just out of reach, as they made their way out with the tide. A glorious time in our lives; at one with the spinner dolphins, sea turtles, moray eels, and other salt water miracles. I can draw those glorious creatures back with a wholehearted breath. Magnificent.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. pat conroy wrote about the majestic beauty of the sea turtles in his books. they are magnificent. mary has done an amazing job with them in this piece.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Life is THAT important. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah, the benefit of turtle’s the lack of reason. We awake each day with the thought of our mortality. How encumbered we are with worry. The unconcerned turtle, if possessing reason, might wonder how we ever get along without a shell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Comment of the day. Right here. I’m still pondering. Thank you Alan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Unlike us, our turtle friend doesn’t worry about danger until instinct alerts him. Natural law not only offers him instinct, but a protective shield, as well, when instinct tells him to retreat within until the danger is frustrated. So he, if he could, may wonder how we get along without a shell.
        If we were to look at him with instinct rather than reason we would understand his unconcern for danger until it appears. Our reason causes us to face our mortality as often as we allow. Expecting danger around every turn. That is why the turtle has a barrier against stress and anxiety through instinct. We too possess a barrier against stress and anxiety if we choose. For we of reason that barrier is faith.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. We have so much to learn from these beautiful stories in nature. When do we ever hear the turtles stop and say “0h this is just too difficult! I have sand in my eyes and I’m tired!” But no, keep going no matter what. “If she had to die for this enterprise, she would.” Every story Mary Oliver shares with us so vividly, always motivates me to learn more, see more, be more.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The miracle of these turtles reminds us of the miracle of ourselves. But of course, Mary Oliver says it all so much more beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: