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Following Flippersteps

I stopped in the white smoky last-of-day sun and squinted hard, bending for a better look at the stamp pressed in the powdery high mountain desert sand.

Holy shit!

“Mom! Look!”

“What is it?” Mom shielded her eyes as she stooped over my sandal print.

“Is it a …?”

“Sea turtle!” I cried. I felt like crying.


The soul sandals I found for $1 at Bargain Box in Cody, Wyoming a day before leaving for Mexico. The soles that took me to Mazunte, Oaxaca: Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga.

Sandals I wore only for a few days once I reached the coast.

For the next month they slept, empty, baking in the terraza sun as gritty sand and hot concrete calloused my bare feet.

I never thought to pick them up, to turn them over and see the symbol their soles bore.

Did those sleeping sandals smile each of the three times I encountered the living inspiration for their rubber soled emblem?


In the first two encounters, Two Mothers I watched successfully drag themselves back home to where those enormous flippers made sense, swishing back out to sea with one last flush of tide; the slimy, fragile future of their kind safely deposited, hidden under cover of land.


The Third Mother I saw did not make it back home. The hole in her head and the gash in her shell said home was the last thing she knew before she hit the rocks.

The shell that floated to shore was empty of the force that moved flippers, but not empty of life.

Inside the black hole on her back was a treasure cache of white, glistening with possibility that would never hatch.

Should we scoop out the eggs? Dig a hole? Bury them ourselves?

But I left after kissing her head and holding her flipper.


The sacrifice of a Mother following her Mother in hopes that one day, her Daughter …


Back home, dinner was ready.

The sun set on a prairie that for millions of years was a sea.

Mom disappeared into the garage. When she returned she held a familiar, though smaller, sandal in her hand.

“Look!” She smiled, flipping it over to point at the sole. “Mine have it too.”

My hand covered my mouth.

“I didn’t know you had those same …”


Can we ever fully know who all led where our footsteps follow?

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