Predawn sighting stirs a mother's soul

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The two-inch hatchlings emerge in about 55 days. They crawl out of the nest at night and head toward the water, using the light reflected by the moon and stars. It takes several hours for them to get to the gulf (if they don’t get picked off by birds or small animals), and they lose 20 percent of their body weight along the way.

All mothers know the enormous effort of the giant turtles. We have all made that dangerous swim and that steep climb. I feel the same spiritual kinship with other mothers in the animal world. Chimpanzees and elephants and dogs and pigs and thousands of other species — some appealing and adorable, and some creepy and crawly — display the same mothering behavior as humans.

When I see a baby monkey clinging to its mama’s back, it seems sweet to me, and familiar. I remember that connection. I watched a National Geographic film some weeks ago that showed the mothering instincts of groups of female elephants that communally protect and nurture the babies in the herd. The drive to procreate, the need to feed and care for the young crosses species, mother to mother.

Perhaps there’s some great, Platonic mother-feeling in the icloud. Perhaps there’s a bit of universal DNA in all mothers’ genes, whether we have two legs or four, whether we have wings or tails or teeth or scales.

Of course, human mothers cannot leave their babies on a nighttime beach to live or die, at the whim of time and tides and beady-eyed predators. Our connection is lifelong, with tides of responsibility surging and ebbing over the years.

My babies are grown up now, swimming far out to sea on their own. Their births were more than three decades ago. Still, last week something in the night quickened my heart when I saw the mama turtle, and I felt the wonder of it all again.

Copyright © 2013 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at

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