I finally finished my ten turtle pile up that sat partially carved for pretty much the entire summer. I began it as a demonstration block at an artist talk in June, carved a bit more as I sat at the farmer's market a week later, and then barely looked at it for two months. But as I've slowed down on work on the writing, I've been able to pull out the block and get back to carving.
These are our Eastern painted turtles, the ones we see in ponds around here, the ones that sometimes come up onto our lawn to lay eggs. They're tastefully handsome, mellow neighbors, and always a treat to see. You might think that there wouldn't be anything very exciting about watching a dark oval just sitting there like a smooth rock, but there's something benevolent about these painted turtles so that it feels like a privilege and a blessing just to be allowed to watch them sunning. They don't seem to care whether they're on top of someone else, or someone else is on top of them. It's all good.
These days my son P claims turtles as his favorite animal, so he's been agitating for me to finish this block. I chose to do the logful of them rather than a more detailed portrait of just one animal, because this is how we usually experience them - at a small distance across the water, in clusters of three or four, though sometimes more. But I put 10 turtles in my picture partly because, well, the more the merrier, and partly because I wanted something to represent the number ten. See, in idle moments I've been amusing myself with thoughts of a follow-up to Amazing, Beguiling, Curious, that would be a counting book, and I had nothing at all for ten. I don't know whether I'll ever move forward with that idea, but even if I don't, I think these ten turtles will continue to be happy just hanging out together on their log. Perhaps we could all take a lesson from them.
[Picture: Ten Turtles, rubber block print by AEGN, 2013.]