Turtle Sanity

For many years, when the seasons would change, my acupuncturist knew to expect a call from me. Transition is unsettling for me; to be blunt, it knocks my qi right on its rear. Sleep becomes a challenge, as do patience, concentration, and the ability to complete otherwise mindless tasks. So with the onset of summer (and in a big way here on the east coast), I once again find myself temporarily unbalanced.

But it’s not just the change of season that’s got me rattled. It’s those darn transitions. Milestones. Life. A daughter graduating from college and setting out into the world — for real this time. A new job for me looming on the horizon. The recent passing of our beloved dog. The youngest child’s imminent departure from the family nest.

It isn’t logical that these life events should cause such inner chaos. After all, change is perpetual. It’s constant. In fact, it’s really all that we can count on. But I still don’t like it. Just when I think I’ve mastered “living in the moment,” the moment passes. It’s all just too fast.

This is why I return each year to the turtles. 

In the beach town where we live every summer, a small man-made lake separates the residential section from the town center. A family of turtles (I assume they are a family, but they could just be old friends) camps out on a lone log floating in the center of the lake. For three straight summers the turtles have sat, rain or shine, on that log. And this past weekend, I was delighted to find my hard-shelled reptile friends right where I last saw them nearly 10 months ago. Their complete disregard for me is matched only by my joyful enthusiasm in seeing them. Something about their settled disinterest in the goings-on around them instills a sense of calm in me, reminding me that all is right with the world. We are exactly where we are supposed to be.

This recipe, known as Summer Salad in my house, offers a simple, no-cook dinner option on summer days when it’s just too hot to turn on the oven (hence, the name). My mother prepared this platter for my sisters and I when we were growing up, and I have continued the tradition in my family. There is absolutely nothing fancy or particularly special about this meal. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and reliability — and the fact that it somehow always manages to bring everyone together around the table.

Summer Salad:
Half-dozen deviled eggs (recipe below)
Tuna salad (preparation is up to you; I stick with the basics: mayo, lemon pepper, diced onion)
Sliced avocado
Sliced tomato
Sliced cucumber
Iceberg lettuce leaves
Assorted crackers

To prepare the Deviled Eggs:
Hard cook 6 eggs. Allow to cool before peeling. Slice eggs in half lengthwise and scoop out yokes into a medium bowl. Mash yolks slightly with a fork, and add a quarter cup of mayonnaise and a quarter cup of yellow mustard. Combine until blended.

Scoop yolk mixture by the heaping teaspoonful into each half of the egg whites, being careful not to “tear” the whites while doing so. Sprinkle tops of eggs with smoky (or sweet) paprika.

To assemble Summer Salad:
Place lettuce leaves in a single layer around plate. Add a scoop of tuna salad to the center of the plate. Arrange eggs and remaining ingredients around platter, and serve with assorted crackers.

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