Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Beautiful Swimmers

Beautiful Swimmers by William Warner is one of my favorite books. It’s is the story of the watermen on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and their counterpart, the blue crab.
It’s all here: how the crab lives, feeds, courts, mates, dies and is eaten. And how the waterman trains, dresses, plans, thinks, prays, eats, and yes, dies. These two --the crabs and the watermen-- are wonderfully and positively co-dependent.

Two of my favorite words in the English language come from Beautiful Swimmers: Autotomy is the remarkable crustacean attribute of dropping a limb, allowing a pincher or leg to fall away as a means of exiting a battle or a threatening situation. Autogeny is the related and accompanying attribute referring to a crab’s ability to grow a new limb to replace the one sacrificed for survival. I could not, the first time I read this, or now, years later, miss the comparison to humans. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know when to drop something or someone and just walk away, and yes, to also be able to naturally grow that part of oneself again, to make a choice and to be new again?

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