#GreatNature: Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

This blog post was written by former National Geographic Education Intern, Livia Mazur. We’re sharing National Geographic staff and friends’ stories about nature to celebrate the Great Nature Project. To share your own nature photos of plants and animals with National Geographic, visit greatnatureproject.org. 

It was a normal summer evening in my life as a busy New Yorker. I had spent all day in the city working and was rushing to get to my home out on Long Island. The commute usually feels like a marathon, sweat involved and all. It involves a brisk 30-minute walk to get to the train, intricately timed train connections, and then a quick car ride to get me to the finish line. There are all sorts of hurdles in my path—the oppressive NYC summer heat, cars on the street that I have to weave between, honking, sirens, other people also trying to get home who will easily mow you over if you get in their way. When I finally get off the train and into my car for that quick ride, I can feel in my internal radar that I am close to home and a strange focus comes over me. I go into turbo speed to finish up the race.

On this one typical evening when I was almost home, something happened. From inside my car, I had an unexpected but much needed encounter with…a turtle.

Photograph by Robert Madden
Photograph by Robert Madden

I was driving by a small lake and I saw this tiny green thing, maybe five inches wide, crossing the road. “Wait is that a turtle?!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In the 18 years that I have been driving past this lake I never saw one. I had seen geese, raccoons and squirrels dart across (actually, the geese waddled), but never once a turtle. Those other critters never got my attention, if anything they were also just furry or feathered obstacles to avoid hitting on my fast-paced race home. However, in that moment, time froze as I was whizzing by, and the turtle communicated an important message to me. He was actually just inching along doing his own thing, but thanks to him I had somewhat of a revelation in my stressed-out, exhausted state.

I had a flashback to my experience as an intern at National Geographic. During my time as an intern, and more specifically when I helped with the Great Nature Project, I felt a renewed sense of optimism and idealism that I had not felt in a long time. When I saw the turtle I had only been back in NY for a short time, but NY has a way of chewing you up and spitting you back out, as they say. In the month after the internship, I had been feeling overwhelmed by the pace and energy of NY, and I began to fear that some of the optimism that I found at National Geographic was beginning to fade. However, the little turtle was a good reminder that awesome things exist in this world and that it is okay to be a little slow sometimes in a hurried world.

Photograph by Livia Mazur
Photograph by Livia Mazur

It’s been a month since I saw the turtle. It has helped me to experience and appreciate other great things in nature since we had our encounter. I take advantage of the natural places close to me, such as the lake and the beach, in my free time. Even on my way home from work, I have slowed down a bit. While I pass the lake, I roll down my car window and I see birds, the sun setting over the lily pads, and the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind. I know the turtle and his other turtle friends are somewhere out there. I hope our paths cross again!

By Livia Mazur. National Geographic Education.

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