Saturday, November 14, 2009

November horseshoe crab

Ida blew through here, and took a good chunk of the coast with her.

Leslie and I walked down the beach to see what we could see (every one of our walks is different).

I found an old, male horseshoe crab turned upside down at the edge of the bay, digging its tail into the new sand, trying to flip itself back over.

This is an unremarkable story for most, but it mattered to me, and it mattered to him.

Finding a live horseshoe crab is a rare event in November. The fellow has descended through a few million generations of similar critters, and here he was at my feet.

I come from a much shorter line of humans (though the horseshoe crab and I have both been evolving for through the same few billion years). A few decades ago, my family left Ireland; horseshoe crabs abandoned Europe millions of years ago.

Through happenstance, I got to play with a distant cousin of mine.

If you think of life in terms of individual organisms, each with meaning, well, you'd be paralyzed--each step you take destroys life, each step you take makes life possible.

Every time I clean my pond filter, thousands, maybe millions, of critters die.
Every time I walk through the grass, I kill innumerable creatures.

If you imagine your own life is something special, more special than anything else, you're in for a bit of a surprise in the next few decades. Even you, as special as you are, are finite.

If you extend this specialness of your own life to all of God's critters, you may end up angsty sitting in a dark room, afraid to move for fear of hurting a fly. Eating becomes an act of betrayal.
You may as well be dead.

If you transfer this feeling of specialness to life itself, recognizing the joyful party that must end for each of us individually, but which will continue so long as the sun keeps shining, well, welcome to the party.

Humans are not the only organisms that feel fear, that feel ecstasy, that feel life. I have no idea what the horseshoe crab felt as it was lifted into the air, only to be gently set into the now gentle waves of the Delaware Bay.

But I know how I felt.


Kate said...

I know -- here I am with another poem. Sometimes I just can't say what I'm thinking and someone else has done it better. e e cummings for example -

since feeling is first

For me it is about life and love and joy and it ends with:

for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

The horseshoe crab and I thank you -

Tracy said...

Add mine to Horseshoe Crab and Kate's. I spent Thursday at a presentation that focused on Attachment Theory, which provides a fundamental framework of relationship to motivate learning, to provide the missing pieces in a student's life.

The story of your relatedness to the little guy makes me think - when we realize that we are all related, how can we not live (and teach) in relationship?

Kate said...


I read your post about that presentation (and your frustrations); I agree - we are all related, and we surely must live and work in relationship.

(I have a strong belief in attachment theory and how it plays out in the 7th grade classroom with young adolescents. I also am tired of seminars and presentations that build anything new from what we already know.)

It's nice to *know* you and doyle.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

Another great poem!

I saw Antigone a couple of nights ago. I'm usually warped this time of year anyway, my response to the dying light reminds me I am a mammal, but Sophocles' appeal to eternal conflicts just wrenched me.

Now e e cummings.

We deny our children when we avoid the truths. You and Tracy both look past the glitz, and I'd love to observe either one of you in the classroom.

Always a joy to see you here.

Dear Tracy,

I have been wrestling with your last couple of posts--I love them, I get caught up in an internal dialogue, then fail to distill my thoughts into something less than a book.

So let me echo Kate--it's nice to share thoughts with folks like you and Kate, even when my thoughts spend most of their time in my skull.