Reflection 265: Rites of Spring

May 21, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

On May 19th, I saw the northernmost population of horseshoe crabs on Earth at it again. Every spring I go looking for them on their breeding shores, and every spring I catch them in the act. Only, now it’s in May, not June, because the water is warmer than it used to be.

Their ritual has become my ritual. Spring wouldn’t come if I didn’t join in their celebration of water temperatures rising to 13 degrees Celsius. When it reaches that point, they come ashore to dig nests in what sand they can find, fertilize the eggs, and bury them safe from predators such as striped killifish, which lie in wait for the protein in those eggs.

I, too, lie in wait, not for protein but to take my annual photographs of this fertility rite that has been continuing unbroken for some 400-million years. I am not that old, but I celebrate their presence in the bay as a reminder of not only their longevity, but of their finding a niche in the universe that has worked for them all that time. My ongoing loop of engagement with horseshoe crabs is a sign of my respect for their evolutionary success. They still look the same as they did before Pangaea split up, well before the great reptiles became extinct. We have much to learn from the horseshoe crab.

Here are three photos from May 19th. The first shows one pair  of the 34 crabs I saw on that day. They are swimming along in their breeding position, female in front (toward the top), male grasping the trailing edge of her shell, a position from which he will fertilize the eggs she lays in her succession of perhaps six nests.

19112150-96The second photo shows a pair emerging from the plume of mud she stirred up in testing the bottom to see if it was suitable for digging a nest.

19110720-96

The third photo shows how protectively camouflaged two pairs swimming along the bottom appear among the cobbles and small boulders of their chosen habitat. The males appears light because of the coat of mud they picked up burrowing into the soft bottom.

19114446-96This is one of my spring engagements, along with teaching Consciousness: The Seminar; giving a talk on An Anatomy of Consciousness; connecting the dots for 350.org to mark the site of shoreland erosion and sea-level rise in Acadia National Park; promoting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to counter the impact of the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision; supporting Occupy Mount Desert Island; and so on.

Horseshoe crabs model the secret of a long and happy life—Stay Engaged!

I hope you are doing the same. As ever, y’r friend, –Steve

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