“Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid at the exact same time.”
~ Brene Brown
Here in the tropical world of neon green lizards and pink-feathered fowl, the only living turkey you’re likely to see is the domesticated variety in a petting zoo. Not that turkeys are a big draw at a petting zoo, with their beady, black eyes plugged into caruncle-strewn faces. Turkeys have snoods and wattles too. It sounds like I’m making up words which would be incredibly fun, but snoods and wattles and caruncles are just turkey anatomy. Of course, they have beards too, which is something we might recognize if turkey beards didn’t look like the last few bristles on a well-worn paint brush, protruding low on Tom turkey’s chest, and completely surrounded by feathers. Turkey bodies are awkwardly proportioned with a neck that’s too long, holding a head too small, and legs, spindly and short, for a torso heavy with plumes. Yes, in Florida, the only turkey you might get a gander at will be well-seasoned and formally dressed for dinner, where he will be lovingly invited, but not as a guest.
Where I lived in the Midwest, we had wild turkeys that lived in areas of dense ground cover and among thick stands of trees. Or so I was told. As a child, I never once caught a glimpse of a single, wattled fowl, and imagined they must be of the urban legend variety of wildlife, like Bigfoot and jackalope. I would go on camping excursions with my family and explore the backwoods in hopes of startling an unsuspecting Sasquatch or catch a turkey roosting in a tree, only to return to our campsite with an assortment of sticks and rocks and mosquito bites to validate my efforts of exploration. I was well into adulthood when I spied my first flock of turkeys. There in an open pasture, strutting through the tall grass were at least six of the evasive species. They weren’t hiding. They were boldly rooting for bugs and seeds. They practically waved as I drove by. How had I missed them before? It didn’t matter because my excitement at seeing the cumbersome-looking birds, was real. For a long time after I would stop my car on the side of the road so I could gaze at these creatures with a history so rich, they actually partied with the Pilgrims. Little did those ancestral turkeys know they were birthing a new tradition. Oblivious to their fate, they’d lumber alongside their human caretaker, sidestepping brass-buckled boots, and muskets to eagerly partake of the corn kernels scattered their way. The turkeys of our forefathers would grow plump and gullible, as they grazed in the same yard as the tree stump and hatchet…
A few Thanksgivings ago, my husband and I traveled to Kansas City to spend the holiday with family. It was a memorable occasion. Fifteen people gathered together for food and fun but before we settled in for our first forkful of mashed potatoes, we were struck with stomach flu. Its effects were fast and ferocious; exacerbated by the aromas of yams and pumpkin. Much of the fine fare that was lovingly prepared for the Thanksgiving feast, wound up freezer-wrapped and tucked away until appetites were restored. Probably the only Thanksgiving weekend when any of us could say we departed scant pounds lighter than the day we arrived. And so, it was, that I found myself riding along the interstate, headed away from the city, a few days post-holiday, when I witnessed a most curious sight. Above the grassy ditch that separated speeding cars on the roadway from the camouflage of trees, a lone turkey was running. He too was headed away from the city, in a full-on sprint; his spindly legs pumping, red wattle flapping and beady eyes focused on the terrain before him as if the grass-covered earth ignited into flames in his wake. In my rearview mirror, I watched the bird run, like a cheetah to his prey, but without the grace and finesse of a well-toned cat. Then I smiled to myself. That big Tom turkey wasn’t running away from Kansas City. He wasn’t being chased by a Pilgrim, wielding a sharp blade. There were no predators nipping at his heels. That fine, fowl specimen was FREE! He had survived one more holiday feast where he wasn’t the main attraction. He was not penned or cooped or even confined to a yard. He was unencumbered and off-leash. The Missouri countryside was his personal domain and this turkey had just won a free pass to explore it. So, I cheered him on! Go, Gobbler Tom!
At this time of Thanksgiving we are encouraged to reflect on the bounty of life. Our loved ones, our health, the privilege of living in this country, and the gift of one more day on earth. For all of these precious allowances, I am truly thankful, and I say so, to myself, each day in my moments of quiet observation. But this year I am grateful for something more. I am thankful for a freedom that lay dormant for too long in my life. The freedom to speak and the weightlessness that evolves from being heard. Extracting this freedom has been tedious and painful and many days I was not sure I could bear the burden, or if I even wanted to. All freedom comes at a cost and mine was paid in vulnerability and uncertainty.
Like Tom, the Missouri Turkey, dashing bravely along the highway, I have also been buoyed by my new-found freedom. And with gratitude for the distance I’ve covered tucked under one arm, and the courage to be vulnerable nestled under the other, I continue to move forward at a cautious, yet expedited pace. The future is unknown. The past is scorched with memories, impossible to erase. But in this moment, as I embrace both courage and fear, I will run like a turkey in the days after Thanksgiving.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.