“When Turtles Fly” is the name of the fascinating blog written by Deborah Miranda, associate professor of English at Washington and Lee. Deborah teaches composition, creative writing (poetry and memoir) as well as Native American, American ethnic and women’s literature. She began the blog back in 2008 as a record of her sabbatical.
The blog’s name, she says, is a sort of an Indian version of the old saying, “when pigs fly” — “only in this case,” Deborah adds, “it is entirely possible for a turtle to fly, if it first transforms into an eagle. It’s about how transformation or adaptation is the key to survival.”
In addition, the turtle is the symbol of the Santa Ynez Chumash tribe. Deborah’s grandmother, Marquesa Robles Miranda, belonged to that tribe. Deborah is a member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of the Greater Monterey Bay area, in California.
“When Turtles Fly” features a wide range of material — poems, essays, historic photographs and excerpts from her current book project, “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” portions of which have been published in several journals. Among the entries you’ll find on the blog is a poem of Deborah’s called “Jacinta’s Medicine.” It’s about the historical figure Jacinta Gonzalez, who is credited with saving the life of author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879. Once she posted the poem, Deborah was contacted through the blog by Jacinta’s great-great-great-granddaughter. That led Deborah to a listing for Jacinta on the 1860 Monterey census — where she also found a listing for her own relative. Deborah weaves the stories together in a real and compelling way.