Like many others, I have been shaken by the chaos, greed, irreverance, hostilities, fear and anger that is bombarding our lives. I’m fortunate to live beside the Delaware River and for the past four years have become increasingly attracted to the ever-changing faces of the ancient rock formations that surround an area called The Big Eddy in Narrowsburg, NY.
I’ve been photographing, sketching and painting the rock formations that support the bridge and line the riverbanks almost daily during every season and at all times of day. The images can change dramatically within seconds and I literally have thousands of photos that I feel compelled to work on, to be able to share the majesty and presence of the ancient rocks that hold the earth, trees and guide the flow of the river. I feel the energy of these ancient guardians and often imagine the stories that they have witnessed throughout time.
The earth energy is very powerful here. I often wonder if the rocks and river harbor a secret portal that often deflects the electronic signals of phones, computers and televisions. Some of my favorite neighbors are eagles, bears, raccoons, skunks, opposums, minks, and snakes. There are also owls, ducks, geese, herons, all kinds of water loving birds, fish, turtles and deer – often strolling past my studio window or nibbling at my garden.
Nature, our earth, Mother Earth to me, provides us with all kinds of gifts and when we are open to listening and seeing, there is beauty, power and magic everywhere.
Today, it feels like time to share the River Rock Totems, as Guardians, especially for the Water and the Water Protectors at Standing Rock – with the intention to share the ancient wisdom and power of nature for all who care about the health of our planet and each other.
~ Debra Cortese 12.2.16
Honoring Turtle – a symbol of Mother Earth
For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of watching a very determined Snapping Turtle climb the rugged, tangled bank of the Big Eddy along the Delaware River in Narrowsburg, New York as she makes her annual birthing journey. This is a tedious and lengthy step-by-step process to lay her eggs in a familiar and not so safe location. She begins her climb at the first light of dawn and once she reaches her nesting ground, she begins clearing away the grass and digging a hollow nest in the dirt. Then, for what can be hours, she slowly lays her eggs by alternately rocking and stretching and turning and gently pushing them into the prepared ground. When the last egg is released, she carefully spreads and tamps down the dirt over the nest and slowly makes her way back down to the river.
She never returns to check on her offspring. They are on their own, left to the forces of nature to decide their fate.
I have my calendar marked for her arrival during the first or second week of June and again in early September or even into October for the hatchlings to emerge. Sadly, they rarely make it out of their nest alive. The first year I was completely naive and thought I would protect them from getting crushed during the lawn mowing. I put a small circle of sticks and netting around the perimeter of the nest area as a marker for the mower to avoid. It was more like a come hither beacon for a band of night-stalker skunks that made a raucous feast of the fresh little eggs. I was in tears the following morning when I saw the shrivelled shells and smelled the nauseating stench of skunks.
I had read a lot about predators of turtle eggs and this time, I spent a few hours constructing a reinforced and very grounded chicken wire cage much larger than the nest perimeter. I waited patiently throughout the summer and once it was close to the earliest hatching time, I checked the nest morning and night every day. Another month passed and still no baby turtles. I read some more and learned that they could take up to 120 days if the weather conditions were not as favorable. By the end of October, I removed the cage and gently scraped the nest area. Nothing was there, not even a chip of an eggshell. This time, a different breed of stalking, nest robbing villans must have attacked from underground.
I’ve learned that perhaps the best I can do is to patiently watch, imagine and hope for the survival of the baby snappers. I’ll continue to watch the calendar and check the nest – which does again have a simple fence marker for the lawn mower to go around, but like the Mother Turtle, I have to be patient and allow the laws of nature to determine when and if these turtles make it to the river alive.
Mrs. Turtle returns on June 5th, 2016 to the same spot on the riverbank to lay her eggs and leave them to the whims of nature for the third year that I’ve been observing this. I dearly hope these little turtles have a chance of survival. The skunks and apparently tunneling creatures are very fond of fresh turtle eggs 🙁
Turtle Painting for 26th Annual Riverfest Poster Art Auction
When I received the Call for Riverfest Poster Art, I knew I wanted to honor Mrs. Turtle but first, I wanted a different kind of information, the kind that resonated with Her and the River and all of the elements of nature that intrigue me every day when I look out over the Big Eddy. Turtle is an ancient creature with some serious history and mythology. I wanted to paint the meaning, the feelings I have about Turtle. What resonated with her energy and felt true for me as well? I sketched for several days until a few designs felt promising. I read more about snapping turtles and I looked through old photos and notes. I’d forgotten about “Turtle’s Bad Day” a startling, too-close-for-comfort, food chain experience during my last visit to Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades and, I realized that Turtle has been one of my nature guides for many years. So I reached for ‘Animal Speak’ by Ted Andrews knowing I would find mythical and relevant information that would help me align the painting and my feelings with the energetic patterns and symbolism of TURTLE…
“The Turtle – is one of the oldest reptiles and thus has one of the most ancient mythologies surrounding it. Turtle is a symbol for Mother Earth, for longevity and for awakening to heightened sensibilities.” – Animal Speak, author Ted Andrews
In the mythology of the Far East, Turtle’s outer shell represents the heavens and the shape and patterns on the shell underside are a symbol of earth.
Turtle represents wisdom, longevity. She is slow and steady, predictable, reliable, persistent.
A symbol of Mother Earth – divine feminine energy
Turtle is a shore creature – living in the water and on the land. Shores are associated with doorways/passages to other dimensions and Turtle is sometimes called ‘the keeper of the doors’.
The markings/sections on many turtle shells number 13 which is associated with lunar calendars and the alternating annual cycles of 13 full or new moons which correspond to female cycles of fertility.
Turtle is a reminder to listen carefully and ask: What am I not hearing or seeing?
Andrews also writes: ” turtles are opportunistic. When Turtle shows up in your life it is usually a reminder to pay attention or you will miss opportunities.”
Turtle painting by Debra Cortese for the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance Annual Riverfest Poster Auction.
Sunday, July 24, 2016 is the 26th Annual Riverfest event that takes over the entire length of the Main Street
business district in Narrowsburg, New York. A total of 60 original artworks will be auctioned to the highest bidders
in this immensely popular event which benefits the Delaware Vally Arts Alliance.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW ALL OF THE POSTER ARTWORKS FOR THE 2016 RIVERFEST AUCTION
September 2014 Oreo out for his morning hunt along the Delaware River
I’m writing from my studio with an absolutely priceless view overlooking the Big Eddy on the Delaware River. Early on this September morning I woke to the sounds of geese practicing their travel honks and flight formations. The fish were joyfully leaping out of the river and a small flock of ducks was out for their morning swim. The warm sun and cool air carries the message that the autumn transformation is approaching quickly. I can already see hints of color on trees across the river. The cool weather is energizing and of course with the sights and smells of autumn is the sense of urgency to complete garden and yard tasks before… winter arrives.
But today, with the fresh air and nature sounds so prevalent, I’m feeling energized and in a bit of a planning ahead mode. I’ve known for the past 2 months that I want to refocus on the creative work that I love and to be honest, I’m finally very concerned about the story I’ll be telling over the next 20 years.
Nature is and has always been my source of inspiration.
Another September photo of ducks our for a morning swim in the Delaware River