A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Slowing Down for Turtles

by Marjorie Vestal

While bicycling to the Zendo for early morning sitting practice, I encountered a box turtle on the trunk road in my neighborhood. Stopping to get a closer look, I became enchanted with the rugged, bearded old critter. I thought it would make a good totem animal for Earthaven, symbolizing long life and slow measured movement in a variety of habitats from wooded swamps to dry, grassy fields.

Like many of us, box turtles are omnivores. Favorite foods include almost any insect (although they seem to particularly relish worms and slugs), virtually any fruit or berry, mushrooms, and a variety of vegetables. Everything they eat is local food.

Box turtles model localization since they do not travel far, and often live within an area less than 200 meters in diameter. While homesteading and localizing is an ideal Earthaven folks value, many of us still travel and depend on fossil fuels far too much.

Placing their vital energy carefully, turtles do not begin mating until they are 7 to 10 years old. With an expected lifespan of 25 to 30 years, they are sexually abstinent until well into their adulthood.

If we seek to live sustainably, there are many lessons we can learn about the slow and steady lifestyle of the turtle.


Marjorie Vestal is a Community Health Professional, beekeeper, blackberry farmer, mother, and recent grandmother. She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage where she cultivates woodland medicinal herbs and enjoys an ever-deepening connection to the natural world.

localization, totem, turtle, zendo

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