A few thoughts that began as I pondered my feet in the sand.
And Then There Was Crab Poop
The waves crash against the shore one day and gently roll in and out the next. I watch the diamonds sparkling across the water, alive, moving, almost blinding in their brilliance as I stare at their beauty, their luster, created by the vibrant sun sparkling in the moving water.
I am enchanted, mesmerized, awe-struck by water in nature, especially the ocean. I people watch. People interacting with and drawn to the ocean, its sounds, power, salty smell and taste. There is something intrinsically biological in the way we are drawn toward the water. I’ve watched in the early hours of the morning as vacationers drift from their hotels or condos, still sleepy-eyed, to welcome the ocean as it awakes into the morning light.
I like to walk the pier, usually early evening, along with many others. We go to watch fishermen with their heavy-duty equipment, meant to make their wishes come true, to lure and catch the biggest and best the ocean has to offer. Sometimes it happens. But really, I think the others are there for the same reason I am there. We look over the rails into the inky blackness below, hoping to see something magical or exotic, maybe something that would scare us if we were in the water rather than safely leaning against railing that hold the last breath and smell of fish that were gutted and cleaned nearby.
Why? What is the lure (chuckle)? Why do some return to the beach year after year to spend their hard earned money to become one with the beauty, splendor and power of the waters? Others yearn to retire by a beach so that they can experience it daily, so they plan and save and hope.
I sit lazily in my beach chair today and watch children, and adults who play like children, and teenagers who are being a bit of both. The water is crystal clear today and gentle, as opposed to yesterday’s rough waves as the result of a hurricane that ravaged Florida’s east coast. Boogie boards and buckets and shovels and nets amuse me as I observe how we humans interact with something so powerful and dynamic, without thinking of it as anything more than a giant swimming hole.
That is, until it isn’t. The amount of water that covers our earth is breathtaking if you take the time to ponder the dimensions. The fact that it is almost alive, palpable, as it moves, ebbing and waning, not just today or yesterday but for all time, as we know it.
“I don’t want to go in. There are fish in there,” cried a young child in an adorable, pink-ruffled swimsuit.
Really? Fish? The ocean is their home. Whales and sharks, sting ray, jellyfish, blue marlin, tuna, ugly things and creatures of such majesty in their beauty they take your and my breath away, and I don’t want to forget, crabs of all kinds, they all live naturally in those great waters, living, surviving, procreating and – sorry about this delicate news – even pooping.
I have been lucky enough to experience some of the wonders the ocean has to offer. From various piers at different locations, I have seen giant sea turtles, beautiful, yet huge and scary jellyfish, and dolphins gracefully arching into the air, completing a dance long enjoyed by their species.
Last year I was just as excited as all the little children who gathered around a helmet crab that literally looked like an old army helmet with a large upside-down crab inside. The helmet crab was spotted close to shore by a young man who was swimming. He carefully caught the interesting creature in his shirt and brought it to shore to share its wonder with the children. My grandsons and others, including me, were mesmerized, seeing this strange creature of the sea that we will, most likely, never see again. I felt huge admiration for the young fellow who walked the helmet crab back into the ocean, and set it free, again.
This summer, I saw a sting ray swimming close to shore, and followed it down the beach a while (on a cruise I chose an excursion to swim with sting ray, and have never regretted the amazing experience as they glided around me, circled my legs and body, gentle, as curious as I was)– a nest of baby turtles – jellyfish – and crabs. I saw a lot of fish on my plate at a favorite eatery by the beach, but that’s another story.
Today, I saw something that created a memory that will never go away, that filled me with sadness. I walked with my wonderful husband down the beach, after too much lazing in the shade of our umbrella. A mid-size stingray washed up on the beach and no one seemed to notice. Or maybe they had and didn’t know what to do. I was shocked. I took advantage of a wave rushing in and splashed the poor thing to determine if it was alive. It didn’t move. Then I saw his ugly injury. His had no tail. It looked as if it had been ripped away from him. This doesn’t happen naturally. A propeller? I feel shame that this could be the result of a human action. If the sting ray had been alive, I would have helped him back into the water. Like others, I waited for the tide to take it home.
The ocean is vibrant and wondrous and doesn’t need us to be so. We are lucky to be able to enjoy it for all the reasons important to us. But, it is more than a place to swim and boat and ski. We will do well to respect it and the life it supports.
Back to the meaning of the title of this essay. I must say, I love experiencing and learning about the large and small wonders of the ocean blue. Have you ever walked along the beach enjoying the waves as they sweep over your feet? Do you enjoy seeing those tiny critters that get washed up by the waves, then stick their little bottoms up and swiftly dig into the sand? They are amusing, and I have to wonder how many times a day they have to repeat this action.
A couple years ago, while walking along the beach, I watched the drama repeated as the little critters were washed up by the waves, stuck their backsides in the air and, as usual, dug themselves into the sand. Now, if you’ve ever seen an ant hill, you will get this picture I’m about to describe.
As I walked along I realized they had added a new element to their process of digging in. Around the little holes they also left mounds of dirt, just like ants do.
“Wow,” I said. “Never seen this before.”
Later, I sat near the water, letting the waves wash up on my feet. I became suspicious. I watched the waves stir up what I thought was sand, but I didn’t like the looks of it. I moved back to the umbrella and pondered the situation.
Then an older couple were stepping into the water that had increased in its brownness. The woman was hesitant. She didn’t know what was discoloring the water, but her husband assured her it was sand stirred up by the waves.
I was skeptical. I had to know the truth. I walked down the beach to where a young lifeguard enjoyed the sun’s rays.
“Hello,” I called out. “Can you tell me what the brown stuff is in the water and on the sand?” I was afraid of the answer, but waited breathlessly.
He looked down at me and smiled, then said, like it’s something he says every day, “Crab poop.”
“Yep. Crab poop.”
Well, I Googled this one. Had to. You would, too. Right? So, apparently those cute little critters are small crabs. An interesting phenomenon, according to my thinking, is that they save their poop until their shells are so full that they have explosive events. I can’t say they have bowel movements, but their poop just explodes out of their shells spontaneously. I thought this was very interesting, but could not find out why they all do it at once, on the same day, at the same beach. I mean, really? Thousands of them. I could not find the answer to this, but it just shows how amazing the creatures of the sea are and how in sync they are with their fellow crab.
The moral of the story is, if it looks like poop…