Someone asked me the other day what it was that set me off, in the beginning. I’d probably been at it again, talking about tortoises in my circular-breathing style that makes it hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise.
“When did you realize this was something that you were meant to write?” the friend asked, waiting for a moment of weakness when I stopped for air. “Was there one thing that flipped the switch for you?” I didn’t have a good answer.
For sure, I feel certainty that taking a very specific approach to writing about tortoises is indeed my purpose, possibly the first of several future purposes. But where did the light bulb go off in my head? Do I have an origin story?
What I can do is point to two significant events, or influences, that happened to me within a two-year period. The first was a profile of Eric Goode in the January 15, 2012 issue of The New Yorker titled “A Manhattan night-life baron’s race to save an ancient species,” written by William Finnegan. The second was a trip to the Galapagos Islands in December of 2013.
The New Yorker article took me up and away — it was a compellingly well written and reported profile of someone working to save tortoises halfway around the world. I immediately recognized it as the type of story, and the kind of journalism, that I loved to read and more importantly that I wanted to write. Almost two years later I found myself at the front lines of ecological conservation and seeing the incredible tortoises of the Galapagos Islands up-close and personal. That experience sealed it, and by the time I got home from the trip I’d already jotted several pages of ideas about what storytelling about tortoises, from a global perspective, might look like.
The thought went dormant, and the notes shoved into a folder, where they remained for a number of years until my circumstances changed and I was ready for my new purpose. Then everything came to life again. It’s not any more complicated than that.