Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Impatience."
I thought of doing this picture as part of a series of "amazing things I have seen only once."
It was sometime in the early 1990s. I was driving to a rehearsal on a Sunday morning and, surprisingly, listening to myself on NPR's Weekend Edition: Margot Adler had interviewed me after the Solstice Assembly issued Sedgefield Fair. That was pretty cool already, but what happened next was far more amazing.
Driving up to the end of Mt. Sinai Road, I saw what looked at first like a huge dog in the road. A wolfhound? No dog is so big! It had a long curved tail.
When I got closer, I knew it wasn't a dog but couldn't figure out what it was. Closer still and I saw to my jaw-dropping astonishment: it was the biggest turtle I had ever seen. It stood on very tall legs. It had strange, strange eyes. And behind it, there was a stopped car, a Volkswagen beetle, and two black ladies dressed in their Sunday best had just gotten out of their car and they, too, were staring, stupefied.
One of them had a rolled-up newspaper in her hand. She was trying to swat this turtle, which in my mind's eye now rivals the size (and shape) of their Volkswagon, so it would get out of the road.
But the turtle was not afraid of the ladies, or the newspaper, or the cars. It just stood there for quite a while. The ladies were IMPATIENT to get to church and kept fussing at it.
Eventually it decided to move on. It put one leg ahead of the other, ponderously, then the next, then the next, and it slowly crossed the road, went down in the ditch, and disappeared into a boggy thicket of weeds, what we call a "bottom" here in the south. We could hear it thrash its way slowly through the brambles. We got in our cars and drove away.
This was the moment, of my entire life, when I was saddest not to have a camera with me. Because nobody will ever believe how big that turtle was. It came up halfway between my knee and my hip. How old must it have been?
The land where it was living has all been developed now - the boggy bottom on the south side of the road is now a housing development and the scruffy, untended farmland it had crossed is now an elementary school. There is no longer anywhere this turtle could possibly be living. What happened to it?
I remember it very, very clearly, but it has become an odd dream in my mind, so that's why I painted it as a scene emerging from darkness.