Tortoise Teachings

I am the proud mama of a male Tropical Red Foot Tortoise named Samba. Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day (my husband believes we should express Love everyday not just on Valentine’s Day and I totally agree!), we celebrate Samba’s Birthday. He was born…or is it hatched? Anyway, his actual birth day isn’t on Valentine’s Day, it’s just the day my husband, Todd, and I adopted him in 2009. It was our first Valentine’s Day as newly weds and we wanted to make it special because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do…but I don’t remember how we ended up at the Reptile Store that day. I saw Samba from a distance and immediately had to hold him, he was so tiny he could fit in the palm of my hand! Todd’s friend worked there and let me carry him around the store while we chatted and caught up. I had to have him….he was so calm and cute. 

Before we got married we agreed we wouldn’t ever have a cat or dog. Turns out we are both allergic to cat dander and hair as well as dog hair and saliva. We break out in a rash, our eyes become itchy and watery, our airways start to close up and we have wheezing in our breathing.  So funny that we have the same exact allergic reactions, we were meant to be…and meant to be reptile pet owners. We both love tortoises, turtles, lizards, snakes and amphibians. So, we adopted Samba on Valentine’s Day and immediately fell in love. We did some research to learn the proper care of a Red Foot and ended up totally spoiling Samba. He is probably the most spoiled tortoise you’ll ever meet! Over the last 5 years of loving, raising and watching Samba grow, he has taught me some valuable concepts in maintaining wellness. 

Top 5 Tortoise Teachings

1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Just like you would imagine, Samba walks very slowly. It is as if you are watching him in a slow motion video, but when you take a second look, you realize Samba is taking time to observe and sense his environment. He is always scoping out the situation while taking in what his senses are telling him. He is cautious yet relaxed. He never rushes anything, he simply takes life slow and steady. Watching Samba like this reminds me to slow down in my life. Rushing around, driving too fast, over-booking plans, even eating too fast all cause stress both mentally and physically. Samba has taught me to take things one at a time, slow down and live in the moment. 

2. Sleep is essential. I can pretty much bet Samba sleeps more than a cat. After an hour or so of being active, Samba will retreat to his heated hide-a-way for a nap. After he wakes up, he doesn’t get right to it again, instead he relaxes with rhythmic breathing and his legs stretched out from his shell. He quietly observes his environment and soaks up the heat. Seeing Samba like this reminds me that it is OK for me to sleep til noon or lay down for an afternoon nap, especially since I am a night nurse and my sleeping pattern is messed up.  Samba reminds me to listen to my own body and sleep when it wants to, even if that means sleeping for 12 hours straight. When we sleep our body has time to repair and heal itself. 

3. Fruits and Veggies are delicious. Samba’s two favorite foods are Organic Dandelion Leaf and Organic Strawberries. You would think he was a kid in a candy store the way eats strawberries. Listening to him crunch on dandelion leaf and other lettuces always draws my eyes towards his direction, wondering what is so crispy and delicious. We occasionally feed him protein and calcium but veggies are his staple food. While preparing Samba’s food for the day, I am always reminded me to take time to fill my own plate with lots of organic fruits and veggies. 

4. It’s all about the small things. Samba lives a simple life. He enjoys basking in the sun, watching what Todd and I are doing, relaxing under his heat lamp and exploring the nooks and crannies around the house and patio. Often times when we are relaxing together we will bring him up on the couch with us as he loves just sitting by us, watching what we are doing, enjoying the moments when we pet his head or rub his shell. Samba always seems so content just being, relaxing and observing. He teaches me to enjoy the small things in life…to enjoy simple moments spent with my husband, quiet time alone, journaling or simply sitting outside soaking up the sun. 

5. Turtle Medicine. Over the last 5 years with Samba, I have become very interested in what healing essence tortoises and turtles have. Sea turtles are so mystical and every time I see them, I feel it is a magical encounter. In raising Samba, he often reminds me of a dinosaur, so old and wise, having lived – as a species –  for thousands and thousands of years. Samba inspired me to figure out how I can bring the essence of tortoises and turtles to my healing practice. I am now learning that Turtle Medicine is associated with uniting and integrating the blessings of Heaven and Earth in my own life. Turtle Medicine also awakens the senses, opens doors for new opportunity and is symbolic of female energy, lunar cycles and longevity. 

I know Samba will live with us for many more years and I am excited to find out what else he has to teach me! Happy Birthday Samba!


Samba our tortoise 

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