Sunday, July 09, 2006

Flipping Crabs

After the bunny, the most common critter in the art of Ray Johnson is the horseshoe crab. Most mornings Ray liked to walk along one of New York’s ocean beaches. Recently I too have been going for early-morning strolls along the Great Kills beach on Staten Island, and there sure are a lot of horseshoe crabs. Ray preferred the north shore of Long Island. When I wrote John Cage Shoes, I was essentially unfamiliar with ocean-dwelling crabs. If there are crabs in Lake Ontario, I’ve never met them. But I have lately come to appreciate horseshoe crabs, particularly since their fate is entangled with the endangered red knots, a bird which lives on horseshoe crab eggs. I flip crabs over whenever I find them on their backs. If they seem really confused, heading too far inland at low tide, I pick them up with two sticks and carry them back to the ocean. Yesterday the horseshoe crabs were plentiful and plainly mating. A nest full of horseshoe crab eggs was hatching! They’re unchanging but startling.