Early in April this year, family from Nebraska came to visit for a long weekend. We forewent the usual sightseeing in the nearby Wichita Mountain region and Oklahoma City area. Instead, we opted for a more relaxing weekend of hiking, fishing and kicking back here on the ten acres. Niece Emily, and nephew Sid tried their best to bond with Daisy deer. Daisy took a sniff or two of Emily and promptly walked off. Sid had better luck. After all, Daisy IS a female and Sid is a nice looking young man!
While taking a hike to our favorite fishing hole later that morning, Sid discovered a lone, turkey egg laying in the sand in a sparse, grassland area. We all looked to see if we could locate a nearby nest but nothing was found. We deduced the hen had either laid the egg where it was, or some varmint had stolen it from a nest and dropped or discarded it for some reason or another. Whatever had happened, it was apparent the egg was bound for doom if we left it where Sid found it. We decided to take the egg home and incubate it. My sister kept the egg warm all afternoon, keeping it against her warm body, while FD and I took the kids fishing.
Once back home, I borrowed my mom-in-law’s antique egg incubator. FD and I got online and researched incubation of wild turkey eggs. We set up the old incubator according to Mom’s instructions, but soon realized one of the bulb sockets wasn’t working. We made a few adjustments to help with temperature, but it remained unstable by a few degrees. We checked the temperature for two days before deciding to drive to the nearest farm store and purchase a new incubator.
Now set up in his new home, Sid the turkey egg (appropriately named after its founder, our nephew Sid) sat in the little warming box with two thermometers and a hygrometer to constantly monitor temperature and humidity. Of course we had no idea if Sid was fertilized, or how long he had laid on the ground in the cool weather, but we set up our charting system anyway, as if we had discovered him just after being laid. FD designed a spreadsheet to keep track of each turn to the “X” or the “O” side, marked on opposite sides of the egg with a pencil. For 25 days, four to five times a day, Sid the turkey egg was turned. We added water as necessary to keep the atmosphere inside the incubator at the correct humidity level. On day 26, we stopped turning the egg and adjusted the humidity a bit higher, and on day 28 we kept constant vigil to see if we had any pipping (the chick pecking its way out) going on. Day 29 and 30 came and went with no indication of life.
This morning, day 31, I knew it was time to remove the egg from its warm Styrofoam nest. But what to do now with Sid the turkey egg, who had become my new little charge for the past month? He had a name. He was a responsibility and, as far as I was concerned, a hope of being my little side-kick. I envisioned him walking beside me as I performed my daily chores. I even purchased the movie, “My Life as a Turkey” in preparation.
I remembered a few years back that FD’s mom had taken a trip about the time she was expecting chicks to hatch. Old Whitey the hen had been sitting on a clutch of 5 eggs and Mom thought they should hatch a few days after she left on her trip. Sure enough, the pipping started on two eggs early one morning. I was excited when I heard a single “peep” coming from the nest. However, a few hours later Whitey was off the nest and a horror awaited me. One chick had managed its way out of the shell, but something was wrong with it. A bloody sack hung from it and I never could tell what had happened. Another chick had only partially hatched, and died. I buried the small chicks and waited a couple more days to give the other three a chance, but Whitey was done sitting. She wanted out of the chick pen area and back with the regular flock. I took the other eggs and decided to investigate if they were fertile or not or if any development had taken place. One apparently was not fertile at all. The other two were fertile but the embryos only made it between day 10 and 13. I wasn’t prepared to see partially developed chicks, and I wished I had not opened the eggs at all. I buried everything, feeling miserable about the whole ordeal. I knew I would not investigate what happened with Sid.
So this morning, with a heavy heart, I took little Sid the turkey egg to the woods behind the house and found a resting place in a grassy area where I put him in a little crook at the base of a tree. I know something will come along and nature will have its way. Perhaps the egg will feed some kind of mother, who is nursing young. Perhaps a snake will ingest it, or a larger bird of prey will spot it and have a meal. The ways of nature are not always pretty, but I accept that this is the way it has to be.
A week ago I discovered a Cardinal bird’s nest in the quince shrub on the south side of our house. In it lay a clutch of 5 eggs. If I came near the shrub, Ms. Cardinal flew from the nest and chirped from a nearby Elm tree. Not wishing to disturb her, I tried to avoid the area whenever possible.
Yesterday, I noticed Ms. Cardinal was no longer around, chirping her usual warning. Concerned, I peeked into the quince and discovered her eggs were gone too. Likely a squirrel or a snake raided her nest and the little lives-to-be were rudely, however naturally, interrupted. Wildlife, especially birds, are quite resilient creatures, and I know Ms. Cardinal will make another nest soon, perhaps this time in a more hidden area. She, and life, will move on.
Pondering this reality, I thought of my own infertility issues suffered over a period of more than 2 decades. The excitement of planning pregnancy and having hope for a child. The disappointment of failure month after month. The years of investigating probable causes and solutions; followed by more hope and more disappointment… And yet, the spirit does not give up. It moves on, perhaps changed in some aspect but, with resiliency, helps us to carry on with everyday life.
Today I laid hope to rest in my endeavor to hatch Sid the Turkey. He was a gift for a time. I learned a lot about wild turkeys and hatching eggs because of my experience with him. That he did not hatch did not say “failure” to me. Sid offered an experience that brought understanding. I have hope that the next time I am presented with a turkey egg (or a clutch of them!) I will be better prepared because of my experience with Sid.
Though it took many years for me to lay hope to rest with my infertility issues, I did move on, and eventually found other ways to express my nurturing nature. I always had empathy and compassion for others who struggled with being childless. Many times, what we cannot have, produce, or bring to life, are the very things that bring about realization that all life is truly a miracle. Rarely do we give thought to the complex, biological mechanisms that must take place to bring about and sustain life.
Nature speaks to us of an ineffable resiliency to move on, return, recover, and endure. It does not question or investigate; it moves on continually. Of course, we will always have hope for a positive situation or turn of events as we perceive it. But there is also a time to lay hope to rest, so that we may move on. I gave the best I had to Sid the Turkey – who never was. And I will continue to offer nurturing and love to nature’s creatures, whenever it is needed.
Wherever I go, wherever I look, there are miracles to be found in nature. Perhaps Sid the turkey egg will be the miracle a hungry young mother discovers in her search for food this morning. Perhaps this was his miracle of not hatching. All things happen for a reason and, though it is always wonderful to have hope, it can also be a good thing to lay hope to rest… because that too can bring about a miracle in our lives.
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