Speaking for the Turtle

No, I wasn’t off in a corner, sulking.

After the NCAA championship game Monday night, we had a storm in the early morning hours which knocked out our power at 2 AM and it wasn’t restored until last night.  The large oaks in our yard came through the storm without damage and we always breathe a sigh of relief about that.  Today,  the sun is shining brightly and the dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom.

Expressing the beauty of springtime  seemed a simple enough idea until I began this ….

–  For behold, the winter is past

–  The rain is over and gone.

The flowers have already appeared in the land;

The time has arrived for pruning the vines,

And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2, New American Standard Bible

I should have stopped here and left well-enough alone, but here’s the thing… I  had to go through several versions of the Bible to find that translation.  Most say …”The time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” I liked that, but the talking turtle was giving me a problem, photo-wise.   I know that some translations say “turtledove,” but I checked to see what Google showed for Voice of the Turtle, in case there was something I was missing–a turtle bird, perhaps.

My head was soon spinning.  There are Voice of the Turtle books, music, newsletters,  blogs by people and even a dog, baseball announcers,  anthologies of Cuban stories, musical groups… millions of entries.

My brain really began to short-circuit when I found an ‘Official True Christian’ website of a church where “the worthwhile worship,  unsaved unwelcome.”  The writer says that the verse unquestionably refers to a talking turtle in a shell and not to give him any Clintonesque lecture about what the meaning of “is’ is.” Furthermore, he added, God could, in the twinkling of an eye, update all the Bibles to read, “the voice of the electric toaster is heard in our land” and make it so.

A Commenter to that article thanked Brother Prune (nope, not making that up) for his excellent words and helpfully asserted that he knows that turtles breathe out of their bums, unlike heathens who can only speak out of theirs.

Really?  I googled, this time about turtles breathing out of their bums.

On a website called The Straight Dope, which has been “Fighting ignorance since 1973–It’s taking longer than we thought,” an ornithologist with the Smithsonian writes that yes, the bum-breathing is true of some types of turtles.  He pointed out that this trait, shared “with certain televangelists, is the ability to breathe through one’s butt. You’ve heard the expression ‘Blow it out your after regions?'”

What kind of turtles have that ability? If I read it correctly,  only turtles without fully retractable heads can breathe that way.  Or, if you prefer, only the pleurodires have cloacal bursae which are vascularized to facilitate the uptake of oxygen.  (Sorry… I over-googled!)

I don’t know anything about the ornithologist or his religion, but I’m just guessing that he would not be welcome at the church of the Official True Christian and I doubt that the OTC preacher has set foot in the Smithsonian.  Yet here they were, both speaking as the voice of the turtle.

My question about the voice of the turtle –or the toaster–was left unresolved, but ironically, I found this little video in an old e-mail while I was writing this.  Could be that this crow and his feline friend may have heard it.  See what you think.


Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may in indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”


–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Riverside Church, New York City, 1967




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19 thoughts on “Speaking for the Turtle

  1. I knew that about turtles-its a handy fact to pull out during a lull in conversation. Here I was wondering where the heck you were and well now I know…can’t help about the talking turtle since that never made it to my one year of catechism class–I would have stuck around if they had mentioned talking turtles that breathed out there bums.
    The pictures are lovely. I keep wondering if the Azalea’s Cole gave me for mothers day last year will bloom. They are so pretty.
    Glad you weathered the storm,

    1. I didn’t even get into the part about exactly how long their … um… well, that part which reaches from their lungs to the back of the shell and all the interesting stuff they can blow out of them.

  2. Ah, Brother Prune. What a delicious name for a guy who’s got his head up his ass.

    But speaking of breathing out of one’s ass, I’m reminded of that great performer Le Petomane, Joseph Pujol, who delighted and amazed audiences as a “farteur” or “flatulist”. Pujol was able to “inhale” or move air into his rectum and then control the release of that air with his anal sphincter muscles.

    Some of the highlights of his stage act involved sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing “‘O Sole Mio” and “La Marseillaise” on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away. His audience included Edward, Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud.

    No mention of the voice of a turtle, though.

  3. Linda Faltin

    Guess I always felt that this verse was referring to that inner state of peace and appreciation and connectedness where, in the silence, even the “voice” of the usually-silent turtle can be heard…though you know my theology usually dwells on the fringes of the heretical. Anyway, i am always listening for that quiet voice in the glorious beauty of springtime.

  4. Ah, someone else who gets going on the convouleted trail of google that leads to the door of a Brother Prune type. Isn’t Google wonderful and look at all you learned and then passed on to us. You are too funny.
    I can not wait for the first time “turtle” is brought up in conversation. Thanks to you–I am ready.

  5. You found my favorite religious website, Landover Baptist! I’m thinking of running the Custom Menstra-Shack ad link permanently in my sidebar.

    And whenever we go looking into the inerrancy scripture, we’re gonna wind up in some strange anatomical twists. I vote for the turtle dove.

  6. Mary, you lost me on the turtle discussion but I love this video! I saw it once before and watching it again I realized that people in Massachusetts talk very much like us Brooklynites …heavy, heavy accents. I love how the husband says “boid” 🙂

  7. Isn’t it amazing what you can learn on the internet/blogs and then, almost best of all…comments?? I had an education today, for sure!
    Turtles, Brother Prune (really, he ought to change that name) and the Bible.
    Cute video!

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