Whenever I see her, I cringe.

She seems to glare at me through the glass, and if I press a finger up against it, she inevitably snaps at me. When I acquiesced and told my darling daughter her Hanukkah present would be a turtle, I explained very clearly that I would  have nothing to do with caring for this creature.

Eliana promised up and down that she would responsibly feed her, change the water in the tank, and do all the things necessary to care for a pet turtle. Dan pledged his backup support on those days when either Eliana isn’t here or she just forgets.

One recent night, Dan came to bed only to report that Sprinkles, as the turtle is known, tried to escape. She pushed up against the filter and knocked the plastic segment off and was perilously close to falling out of the tank. He caught her and duct-taped the pieces on more securely.

But it was a message, I thought.

Although I wasn’t raised with pets, I do love dogs and have an affinity for the beauty of all creatures. And yet, I have always bristled at the idea of owning an animal.

Some of it, yes, has to do with the upkeep and the mess. But more than that, it’s discomfort that I have with the idea of owning a creature. Who am I to keep a creature in a crate or a box or a tank and control its fate?

You could argue that if an animal is bred in captivity, it knows nothing else, but I swear Sprinkles’ innate instincts, which go back longer than humans have walked the planet, propel her to roam free. Besides, it’s not like there’s a turtle rescue.

It feels like she knows we have captured her, and she is not pleased. I’m almost afraid of this little resilient creature. Isn’t that crazy?

But then the other day, I picked an angel card that talked about animals being my spirit guides. Seriously? It even mentioned that perhaps an animal residing in this house could be here as a guide for me to keep to the right path.

So there’s no way I can reasonably take Sprinkles to a metro park and set her free, not in good conscience. (Also, the fact that she will probably be eaten by a raccoon doesn’t rest well with me.)

I turned to my Animal-Speak book to learn about the symbolism of the turtle, and here’s the gist:

* A lot of mythology surrounds the turtle – Far East dogma has it symbolizing heaven (hard shell) and earth (square underside), so this animal could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life.

* For Nigerians and Native Americans, the turtle symbolizes female energies, symbol of the primal mother.

* Its great age and slow metabolism associates the turtle with longevity, long life, groundedness. It does not move fast, inspiring new perceptions of time and our connection to it.

It says: “If turtle has shown up, you may need to ask yourself some questions. Are you not seeing what you should? Are you not hearing what you should? Are you or those around you not using discrimination? Is life becoming too hectic? Are we not taking time for ourselves? Are we so busy that we can’t really see what is going on?”

Its messages thus tell us to slow down, to incubate ideas, to connect internally and listen to your inner voice. Take your time and subscribe to the natural flow.

Geez. And I thought it was just a pet!

So if that weren’t heavy enough, the other day during meditation, a butterfly fluttered its wings before my eyes. With this apparent symbol of transformation, I’m getting the message loud and clear.

Let change happen. Embrace it. Slow down. Let my ideas take wing. See what comes when I’m not rushing to fill up the hours and the days.

Seems like common sense. So why is it so hard to do?

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