The snow was all gone. The ice had melted and the creek waters were running high. At first, only a few raindrops began to fall into the deep pool by the old sycamore, but soon more fell, and then it began to rain so hard that it looked as though the surface of the pool was dancing. As the creek water rose higher, the current through the pool ran faster until it seemed as though it had become a giant cauldron of boiling water.

The rushing water tore at the sides and bottom of the creek. An old maple, its roots barely covered by the shore, finally let loose. It fell into the water with a crash, and then slowly turned with its heavy roots heading downstream. The tree had begun its first and only ride, pushed by the quick water, all the way down to the river, three miles below.

Where the tree once stood, the muddy bank lay torn open. The tree’s roots had left a gaping hole, yet as the tree washed away, its roots had tried to cling to the pool that at been its home, gouging deeply into the bottom of the creek, digging through the mud, and so it was that the old snapping turtle was awakened early from her winter sleep. She was definitely not ready to face the new season and climb out of her muddy creek bottom hibernation.

The valley where she had lived for the past 40 years had barely started to warm. Her eyes were still closed. She had lain safe and secure, deep in the creek bottom mud – until her familiar maple tree had been torn loose and toppled over to wash away. She awoke suddenly, as she was driven by the rushing water, down the entire length of the long pool.

Trees, rocks and even a tire that had been thrown over the bridge farther upstream tumbled with her. Her forearms and legs spun around her, as end over end she cartwheeled, and then, just as a huge sycamore tree rushed past in the main current, she was pushed toward the bank and into a slow moving back water. Her spinning stopped, and she found herself lying right side up, just a few feet of muddy water over her head.

She did not move, though she was beginning to wake up. She opened her eyes. She lay still, not breathing, still holding her breath as she had for the past five months. Night came and the rain stopped. The next day the sun burned through a chill fog that blanketed the creek valley.

Days passed, and with time the creek water fell back into its banks and began to warm in the shallows. Finally, the old snapper began to move. With one slow underwater step after another, she made her way along the creek bottom to the shore. She stopped when the top of her shell was just barely above the surface. She could feel the sun’s warmth beating down on her.

Slowly she raised her head above the water and filled her lungs with her first breath of the cool spring air. The snapping turtle had lived in the deep creek pool her entire life. The top of her shell was as large as a serving platter. She was formidable, and had always lived alone, but perhaps not entirely alone.

Every spring I have looked for her. I know her by the large scar on her nose, and every spring I worry that perhaps the swollen creek has finally carried her away. For the past several years, she has been as sure a sign of the new season as the daffodils I’ve planted by the side of the road.

For now, though, I walk the road, looking for those first clumps of daffodil shoots, and I scan the creek, looking to greet my cautious friend, another winter behind us.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.