Tag Archive | Keeper of Slow Time

Coming When Called

So much to be grateful for today! Almost everything. Among the experiences I’m grateful for today is a new trick from an old tortoise. Well, not that old. Biko is actually just coming of age, hitting maturity at around the same time a human would (one would hope), twenty-two years old. I’ve been a constant in his life since he was one, though he’s never paid me much attention. But we’ve been working on our communication skills these past few years, and though he doesn’t like me to pet him, he will come when I call if he’s within sight of me, usually.

This year has been an especially good training year because of the drought: there’s not as much wild forage for him, so I’ve been able finally to train him with food. At least once a day I make sure to call to him when I see him approaching, grab a handful of lettuce, and stamp my feet. He will turn and come to me for the greens. This morning, I had just picked some lettuce I wanted to give him, but hadn’t seen him yet. I was finishing up some organizing on the west side of the house. Intermittently over about ten minutes, I called and stamped, three or four times. Then as I had my back turned, I heard his footsteps crunch on the gravel. He had come!

It could have been coincidence, but it felt like a real communication coup. Biko has been the shy, independent one from the beginning. I almost named him Bashful. But to get any tortoise to come from afar when summoned feels like an accomplishment. It gives me hope that he might come home if he ever escaped. It was a miracle his brother Desmond Turtu was found: I live in anxiety of another infrastructure failure or some oversight letting Biko get away. I’m grateful for even the illusion of his coming when called.


I’m grateful this time of year for lilacs, for their various colors, their feeding of bees, their intoxicating scent. Some years I can smell them from the other side of the house in late afternoon. Not this year, tough, their blooms are sparse. Maybe the buds froze in the last frost, or maybe the pre-buds were damaged by The Big Freeze last fall, the one that killed the almond tree, and it looks like the peach tree may not make it, either. Grateful that the lilacs survived! I make a point to walk that side of the house several times a day even when I don’t need to, just so I can stop and inhale deeply of the flowers: my head tingles from the inside, like a jump into Suzi’s pond invigorates the skin. I feel cleansed breathing lilac air.

I’m also grateful for the dainty, brilliant carpet of the tiniest penstemon, Penstemon caespitosus, the mat penstemon.
And I’m grateful for this handsome beast who’s lived here for the past 20 years, roaming the yard freely during summer, snoozing his way through winters. Biko is a captive-hatched leopard tortoise I got when he was one year old and didn’t quite fill the palm of my hand. Biko is the Keeper of Slow Time here at Mirador, the pace of his life inspiring to me.