The Skittering Escape of the ‘Alamihi Crab: A Meditation on Self-Care and Weathering the Storm
by Sharon Sherbina, NYR Organic
It’s a dark and stormy night on the island of Oahu. The surf breaks harshly on the plank of a pier jutting out determinedly into Maunalua Bay. The dark clouds overhead eerily reflect the light pollution of the nearby shopping districts of Honolulu and Waikiki, where the conversion of paper dollars into stuffed, plastic logo bags is in full swing. In the distance you can hear a gorgeously wrought cover of Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole’s, “Maui Hawaiian Sup’pa Man”.
When you get to the end of the wicked finger-like pier, it feels as if you’re at the end of the universe, looking out into the dark expanse of the unknown, the peaked and turgid waters all around you. And, if in that moment, your spirit happens to be troubled, look no further than the ‘alamihi crab skittering purposefully out of your way.
The ‘alamihi crab (metopograpsus thukuhar) is worthy of watching and reflecting upon, although maybe under safer circumstances. The ‘alamihi keep to the low-tide shallows, much like humanity, and clambers about on the exposed rocks, stones and piers. They are quintessential self-preservationists.
Is your self-care actually self-preservation, instinctive and reactive? Or, do you practice it with intention and reflection? Are you actively planning on how to weather the next storm? Are you in the middle of a storm now?
It’s anecdotally shared, that when faced with the imminent threat of a collision in a moving vehicle, you clench every muscle you have including the tongue. This leads to more sustained injuries, and a lengthier recovery time, if your situation is recoverable. Life is filled with collisions. There are minor ones like disagreements at work over processes or miscommunications on the homefront with partners and children. Or there are major ones like the sudden loss of child, getting an unexpected diagnosis for a serious health issue, and losing your job. What if you could live life unclenched? Would it matter?
It’s important to be of a positive mindset, but it’s of even greater importance to be of a realistic mindset with a positive response. The shock is greater to your being, when your first response is, “I never thought something like this could happen to me!” Why not? Why, based on all the evidence around you, the rise and fall of civilizations, the ebb and flow of humanity, would you sail through this existence unscathed?
We have a cognitive capacity that way exceeds the ‘alamihi crab. We can do more than furtively scramble out of the way in the darkness. We can plan, conditionally, lest Robert Burns’ words come back to pinch us. We can form intention now. We can unclench. We can know for certain that the storms are coming, but that they can be faced. And some storms may even be dissipated with the right actions.
*This piece was written in the aftermath of the “false alert” January 13, 2018, where thousands of people on the island of Oahu received notification that there was an incoming ICBM missile, and to take shelter. The beach where the ‘alamihi crabs were observed was the same beach that had hundreds of screaming people running anywhere they could to find shelter, under lifeguard stands, in bathrooms. In many cases mothers and fathers had their children lie on the ground and they covered their children with their own bodies.
I’m opposed to author bios, for much the same reason that I’m opposed to framing artwork. Intellectually we know that art goes beyond the frame, and that the frame is an artificial construct. My husband says that I “sure am a piece of work”, but he has never, (nor has anyone else) ever referred to me as a piece of art…
So, right now I am bouncing back and forth between the beautiful and troubled island paradise of Oahu, and our home base in deep rural Missouri. Subjects of interest for contemplation and writing include nature, sustainability, primitive skills and traditions, kindness, unconditional positive regard, all the big whys and hows, movement disorders, the juxtaposition of science and religion, education, second language acquisition, holistic skin care, and cats. I fail to practice much of what I preach, and greet each day as a challenge, and consider each night before I go to bed an exercise in self-grace.