Monday, June 06, 2011

Sandestin #2

Creatures in the Evening

The evening walk on the beach with Gail something I have wanted to do since we got married. Here we are, 15 years into this marriage, and we finally did it. The breeze and setting sun provided a mercy from the intense sun heat of the day. We walked and our bodies didn’t sweat and our skin didn’t burn. it felt good. Brandon, Sheryl, Judy and all the kids were stationed on the beach. Sierra went with us, her camera ready to click.

The sun slowly set over the towering resort hotels as the daylight slowly evaporated. The ocean is beautiful at dusk. Gail claimed she saw crab scurry off into the ocean, but I didn’t think so because there were still lots of people out. What do I know of crab behavior? Then Gail saw  something disappear into the sand, a tiny something. Again, I saw nothing. She followed up on it and dug into the sand and found what she called a clam. A clam? It was the size of one fourth of my pinky fingernail. It looked like a small white pebble.

She set the clam on the sand just after the a wave retreated back to the ocean and sure enough, it reproduced its previous behavior. It melted into the sand like a little piece of hail next to a candle light. It was gone. It burrowed down quickly and hid from our sight. For Gail, it was a pilot test. Now for the real experiment – show the kids.

We got back to where the cousins were all together playing in the surf and gathered them for a demonstration. Gail showed the the miniature clam and its great disappearing trick, and they were off. Again, again, they wanted to see it again. They all wanted their own clam. They wanted to do the disappearing clam trick themselves.

Soon each of the kids dug holes looking for miniature clams. They each found one of their own. Over and over again Maddie, Ella, Sam, Canaan and Sierra played the hiding clam game. Then Canaan dug a hole looking for another clam and instead found what must have been the smallest crab on earth – the size of half my pinky fingernail.  It was sand colored with dazzling and oversized blue eyes. They looked like two bright blue ink drops a few hairs held together with clear glue or gelatin. We wowwed and wondered how wonderful this tiny world was.

Creatures in the Morning

The sunrise run was slightly cooler than the previous day, but much more humid. The sun had not yet awaken enough to swallow some of the humidity with heat. It’s not a great exchange. As a Minnesotan, trading heat for humidity is like being told that the good news is that there is a treatment to help take the edge off the headache, but it involves pounding a hammer on your hand. I began to sweat even before I began to run.

I made my way to the beach and then headed eastward, toward the rising sun. It rose over the sand dunes past the resorts. Although I do like the manicured landscaping, the structure and order of the buildings, and clarity on what to do and where to go in the resorts, I also like the ambiguity and unkemptness of the ocean front beyond the resorts. It was this beach wilderness that I saw the crabs – sand colored and fast. Probably the same crabs Gail claimed to see the night before, but I dismissed her. I shouldn’t dismiss her. It’s a dumb thing to do.

The first crab I saw was a wave chaser. I noticed it about 20 feet ahead of me on my run when a wave had made its complete advance on the sandy shore and then retreated. The crab chased the wave right back into the ocean and then got gobbled up into the foamy next wave. A couple minutes later, two similar crabs did the same thing about 20 feet ahead of me. They are quick little creatures. To hidden to detect them and too quick to catch.

Then I spooked another, but this one was not a wave chaser. This one was a hole diver. Crabs have holes in the sand they dive into and disappear. I looked for it, kicked the sand around, dug a hole with my running shoe, but it was gone.

I saw about a dozen crabs that morning and was amazed. They had two ways of escape from me – both equally effective. And yet, I got to see them scurry. Minnesotans see crabs on plates at restaurants, not in nature. It was a real treat.

As I continued to run the beach, I thought about Charles Darwin and his observations of creatures in the Galapagos Islands. I thought of him as a scientist and a wonderer of nature. He must have been so curious, so interested, so taken by all of this world.

I wondered if I would ever make a trip to the Galapagos Islands. But it didn’t matter whether I would or not. It appears there are wonders of nature everywhere I go.   

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