My editor, Linda Hasselstrom, recently returned my manuscript with many richly helpful comments, and an intriguing one that took me on a little research journey.
In the chapter I named Ocean Waves, I included a quilt square sample to give a sense of the pattern I’ll use to make that square. As I’d searched the internet through the huge variety of Ocean Wave patterns, I found one with a turtle that caught my fancy. I copied and pasted it into the manuscript.
Linda noted, “I especially love the turtle, my totem.”
I’d heard of totems, had a vague idea what they were; now I wanted to know more.
Among a dearth of information, I found that a totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual. Native American bird and animal symbols are considered representations of the physical form of a spirit helper and guide. Further, a long list of animals and accompanying questions could help determine what my totem might be. For examples:
Are there animals that you feel drawn to in your life?
Does a particular animal often turn up in your life?
Is there a certain animal you often see in nature?
My thoughts began to flow: my many pleasant memories of hunting for turtles when I was a child, the countless times in my life I’ve stopped on a road to move a turtle across to safety, the joy I feel when I discover one in my yard, the turtles who have appeared in my writing, and the several allusions to turtles in my memoir.
Today I reflected further about how I move through my days and activities more at a turtle’s pace than of those nine deer that just leaped across my yard down by the stream. I love the slower pace since, in retirement particularly, I have the time to look more deeply at what I am seeing, to then ponder other layers of story or meaning that might be there.
This additional thought brought me to a clear conclusion: the turtle feels exactly right as my totem, that slow and steady creature with the ability to withdraw into its shell for protection when needed.
Now I wonder: do you, my reader, have a totem? If you would like to share it, I would love to hear from you.
Note: the quilt pattern above can be found at: https://www.google.com/search?q=ocean+waves+quilt+block+pattern&biw=939&bih=582&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwizzYey6ovKAhVLMyYKHXXIAnkQ7AkIKA