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Monday, October 9, 2023

Turkey Zen

What I learned from wild turkeys

by Linda Collins Thomas, Rhode Island Current

Photo by Will Collette
Living in the small village of Slocum, Rhode Island, I experience the advantages of quiet evenings. I glance across the road known as “The shortcut to URI” which offers the wide view of picture-perfect sod farms. 

I wake to refreshing mornings of coffee on the sun porch where I’m surprised by summertime visits from wild turkey families. Yes, wild turkeys have informed my conscious awareness and my happiness in unexpected instances of self-recognition, solace, laughter and peace. Let me count the ways.

My first encounter with this large, shy and yet confident bird family occurred while driving home from my office in Wickford. A line of cars politely and impolitely stopped for a sizeable wild turkey family crossing a back road. 

There we all sat in a line next to a fire station and a ball field. One at a time, the turkey family crossed with regal ease and a pace which displayed a beat. Because I have musical training, I often imagine the matching music to underscore a theatrical scene.  Watching the turkeys, I understood why John Philip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” was said to bring tears to the composer.

I counted them. Two very large parents with very long necks as leaders, four adolescents on their best behavior, and eight fluffy assorted chicks who looked daunted following them.

I didn’t think about the number of cars bound home after a hard day’s work. Instead, I experienced one of those helpless moments where reality takes over and we succumb. To tell the truth, this enforced stop was a pleasure. Who knew there might be another way to deepen your breath and find inner peace?

The next day, a wild turkey family came to visit our property at dawn. My husband and I had planted a vegetable garden. It was 6 a.m. While making coffee, I passed by the kitchen window and there, in all their quiet confidence, was a very large wild turkey family in the backyard. 

Trying not to be seen, I observed that the Tom-father bird pecked and pushed the adolescent birds into better choices. They pecked at what may have been bugs for breakfast along with garden seeds. Momma-Hen attended to the needs of the little chicks. They move elegantly and silently. 

They lay in the cool soil at the end of the garden and rested. I took another deep breath and rested my mind, which was overrun with chores.

That night, the Tom bird returned to the large roots of our Norwegian Maple tree and taught his male offspring to roost in a treetop for sleep and safety. I did not know turkeys have that ability.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I first saw this happen when a group of ten adult turkeys made a synchronized flight from the forest floor to high up in our oak trees in the kettle hole behind our house. An amazing sight.  - Will Collette

All this to notice they are living courageously in an ecologically dependent system in a world that has become conquering and competitive and not united.

I ponder how we lost our human connection to nature and our means to get along in basic ecology. I feel our future health depends on learning to do this. I predict we still have time to live in a more balanced environment.

One morning, I made a list. I wrote as I looked out the window at the morning visit of the turkeys.

“Buy fresh mozzarella for ripe garden tomatoes. Buy Rain Dance for the car windows. Feed the turkeys.”

But I didn’t feed the turkeys. I came to my senses that I would be interfering with what they already knew how to do.

I looked for information on wild turkeys in Rhode Island and discovered to my delight that my concerns were well covered by our state. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM, annually sends questionnaires out to the public on Reported Sightings of Wild Turkey Broods. “Today turkeys are found in practically all areas of the state and provide recreational and wildlife viewing opportunities,” according to the DEM website.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't respond to these surveys because I don't want to contribute data that DEM uses to determine how many may be killed by hunters.  -  WC

What I learned from my view out my windows is that wild turkey life involves active interdependency, attachment, mutual agreement for survival and a confident ecology with the planet earth, which is, after all, our only home.



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