The new year is upon us, and the whirlwind that was the holidays is often hard to let go of. The hustle and bustle push us in so many ways that it’s hard on the body and mind to abruptly halt.
With the new year comes resolutions, and it’s easy to stay in a frenetic state as we delve into accomplishing them. The fact is that change takes time. Accomplishing resolutions is a slow process that takes fortitude and consistency. To move slowly toward a goal is the best way to achieve it, rather than bounding ahead and burning out. Making permanent change is a race better won by the slow and steady tortoise, rather than the hapless, distracted hare.
Tortoises and turtles are both from the same order but are in different families. A shell made up of an upper part, called a carapace, and a lower portion, called a plastron, shields both tortoises and turtles. The carapace and the plastron are attached by a bridge, which means that though the head and limbs of a turtle or tortoise may be withdrawn from the shell, the whole body can never be totally detached from it.
The main difference between turtles and tortoises is that tortoises live only on the land and turtles live in water, and terrapins live in both.
The closest thing to a tortoise that is native to Colorado is the western ornate box turtle. They are sometimes known as box tortoises because they are terrestrial. However, they are members of the pond turtle family. They are the only terrestrial turtle that lives in Colorado.
Different countries make different distinctions between turtles and tortoises, but the three groups collectively are part of the superorder Chelonia, so you can’t go wrong calling a turtle or a tortoise a Chelonian.
Box turtles have legs that are short and stout, with elephant-like feet designed for walking on land. They use their feet for digging and ripping food into pieces. Turtles don’t run, they walk. They are capable of bursts of “speed,” but that means walking at a faster pace. The measurement of speed for a box turtle on land is feet per hour, not miles per hour.
Turtles and tortoises are the oldest living group of reptiles, dating back to the time of the earliest dinosaurs. If baby tortoises make it to adulthood, they have an average life expectancy of about 50 years. Many live to be 100.
So, they may not be speedy, but turtles and tortoises have longevity working in their favor, both as a species and as individuals.
In this new year, take a tip from these plodding reptiles and walk slowly, yet confidently, toward your goals.
Sally Shuffield is executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-9244.