There was a radio story about a particular athlete, or entertainer, or member of Parliament -- I wasn't listening very closely -- who had an opportunity but decided to pass it by. "The timing wasn't right," said the reporter, "and he had loft turtles..." He said this in the kind of dismissive "what ya gonna do" tone that tells you this is a common occurrence, and apparently a common phrase any listener to NPR or the BBC should be familiar with. I took it to be a kind of "butterflies in the stomach," a "bats in the belfrey" -- phrases we know and don't use in normal conversation.
Of course it wasn't what he said. He said "loftier goals." The subject of his piece had let an ordinary opportunity go by because he had loftier goals.
In spite of what this blog may lead you to believe, I am not losing my hearing. I am over-analyzing. It got me to thinking what a Loft Turtle might be, and how I could use it correctly. Turtles, of course, do not live in lofts. They live as close to the ground as they can get, under it, or in the water. The last thing a turtle would want to do is fall, especially from something lofty.
Yertle was a lofty turtle: "This throne that I sit on is too, too low down..." and he goes through several pages of tetrameter to get loftier. Interestingly, though, Yertle was not the type of turtle I pictured when working out my metaphor. One isn't being a Loft Turtle - one has or gets Loft Turtles -- and I think they are more timid creatures than Yertle. They are even more timid than Mack, the underrated hero of that story who shrugs, Atlas-style, and brings the whole thing down. If Mack had Loft Turtles, he might not have attempted it.
Loft Turtles are timid because they know they are out of their element. They have landed somewhere they don't belong, and even though they might live a long happy life in a very large loft with a bed of hay, giant spider webs, and a leaky roof that puddles nicely in a depression in the wood, and from 6-9am the sun is perfect for sunning on a rusted bucket, Loft Turtle will stay tucked in his shell and just die there, longing to get back to where he belongs.
These are the Loft Turtles we have, and that is how they get us. We pass up the opportunities to eat spiders and sun on a bucket because it seems against our nature, even though it is exactly what we are driven to do in any other place and time.
It is easy to mix up your Loft Turtles with your Loftier Goals. Try to convince them they are not going to fall, and see if you can coax them out of their shells.