Oh, the glee of sea-bathing! It rouses the apathetic. It upsets the supercilious and pragmatical. It is balsamic for mental wounds. It is a tonic for those who need strength, and an anodyne for those who require soothing, and a febrifuge for those who want their blood cooled; a filling up for minds pumped dry, a breviary for the superstitious with endless matins and vespers, and to the Christian an apocalyptic vision where the morning sun gilds the waters, and there is spread before him “a sea of glass mingled with fire.” “Thy way, O God, is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters!”
Hard shell considerations.
The plumage of the robin red-breast, the mottled sides of the Saranac trout, the upholstery of a spider’s web, the waist of the wasp fashionably small without tight lacing, the lustrous eye of the gazelle, the ganglia of the star-fish, have been discoursed upon; but it is left to us, fagged out from a long ramble, to sit down on a log and celebrate the admirable qualities of a turtle. We refer not to the curious architecture of its house—ribbed, plated, jointed, carapace and plastron divinely fashioned—but to its instincts, worthy almost of being called mental and moral qualities.
The tortoise is wiser than many people we wot of, in the fact that he knows when to keep his head in his shell. No sooner did we just now appear on the edge of the wood than this animal of the order Testudinata modestly withdrew. He knew he was no match for us. But how many of the human race are in the habit of projecting their heads into things for which they have no fittedness! They thrust themselves into discussions where they are almost sure to get trod on. They will dispute about vertebrae with Cuvier, or metaphysics with William Hamilton, or paintings with Ruskin, or medicine with Doctor Rush, and attempt to sting Professor Jaeger to death with his own insects. The first and last important lesson for such persons to learn is, like this animal at our foot, to shut up their shell. If they could see how, in the case of this roadside tortoise, at our appearance the carapace suddenly came down on the plastron, or, in other words, how the upper bone snapped against the lower bone, they might become as wise as this reptile.
We admire also the turtle’s capacity of being at home everywhere. He carries with him his parlor, nursery, kitchen, bed-chamber and bathroom. Would that we all had an equal faculty of domestication! In such a beautiful world, and with so many comfortable surroundings, we ought to feel at home in any place we are called to be. While we cannot, like the tortoise, carry our house on our back, we are better off than he, for by the right culture of a contented spirit we may make the sky itself the mottled shell of our residence, and the horizon all around us shall be the place where the carapace shuts down on the plastron.