Pausefully Magazine

the online magazine about life as a creative process


Where Do Turtles Go In Winter?

By Connie Robillard

This photo and cover photo
by Connie Robillard


I am fascinated with how people think. Some people process words as they are spoken into solid pieces of information and data. Others transform spoken and written words into self-constructed images.

As for me, I am an image person. While it makes reading an adventure, it has its downside. Self-constructed images can cause vicarious trauma if we are listening intently to another person's traumatic experience.

As a psychotherapist I have a need to change disturbing internal pictures for myself and for clients. One exercise I use is the intentional creation of new images through writing, using descriptive words. The re-reading of the material created in a safe place then becomes part of the internal landscape.

As you read the following piece, notice how you process the words.

Where Do Turtles Go In Winter?

It is October in New England. I watch the greens of summer turn to the brilliant shades of autumn. The trees outside my window change to crimson reds, bright yellows, oranges and deep purples. Elegant cascades of color that become even more beautiful as the leaves reflect in the water of the pond outside my back door. I am privileged to watch the seasons change in ribbons of watery reflections.

Each day that the weather allows, I set my kayak afloat on the pond. I glide free and effortlessly as my boat skims over the surface of the water.

My kayak rides have a purpose during the warm months. I go turtle watching. Turtles are interesting creatures. They come to sit on the shore, rocks and logs to soak up the sunlight of summer and swim in the pond.

I believe that turtles have different personalities. Some watch as I pass and are just as interested in me as I am in them. Others jump into the water in an effort to hide. I see their small faces peeking up from the dark water to check on my whereabouts. Some turtles are gone in a flash, returning to their log as soon as I pass by. Those see me as an intruder in their world and they have no time for me.

This October afternoon I set out with my kayak and camera to take pictures of foliage and catch final glimpses of my friends, the turtles. Only a few remain now, their behavior already different, slower, deliberate. A few trudge along the shoreline eating plants, some look like black rocks all huddled in their shells and only a few of the heartier ones hold their heads out of the water to catch the last rays of sunlight. Summer has lost its luster and been replaced by cold nights, foggy mornings, shorter days and cold pond water.

"Where do turtles go in winter," I ask myself? "They breathe air and so how do they survive all though the snowy months?" "Oh, yeah, hibernation." I answer as if some science teacher's ghost still lurks in the recesses of my mind, coming forward to answer the question.

I imagine turtles snuggled up, inside their shells. In my mind's eye, I can see them stuck in mud and up to their eyeballs in wet brown leaves. Their shallow breath taking in the familiar smell of earth. Now would be the time, I think, when turtles are choosing their winter beds.

The breeze feels cold and I reluctantly turn my boat toward shore. I float between the last of the wilting lily pads. My boat scrapes the beach sand beneath it until it comes to rest gently on the shore where it will stay until the next kayak ride.

What did you find out about yourself? Are you a word or an image person?


Connie Robillard is a Certified and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Connie and co-writer / clinician Marcel A. Duclos give trauma healing workshops. Their book, Common Threads – Stories Of Life After Trauma, has just been published. See website.



Resources: Demystifying mindfulness - From mindless to mindful - Mindful pause - Mindfulness exercises - Mindfulness exercises - Relational mindfulness - Relational mindfulness - 12 steps without god - Somatic psychotherapy - Proactive mindfulness quotes