the crab that was || san francisco

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We returned, rested after a week spent in San Francisco under the ever-kind care of my grandparents. We erred on the side of relaxation, seeing several sights, but certainly not hitting the pavement at dawn and staying out until all hours to fill every last moment with activity.

Over the weekend we took to the beach. A quiet beach, empty of crowds. Miraculously, given the holiday nature of this past weekend. This is why it pays to know the locals (many thanks to my aunt for the directions!).

It being the ocean of northern California, the water felt frozen, the breeze frigid, and the sun — though shining brightly — didn’t give one the sense of much warmth. Yes, you guessed it, I got sunburned. Which never happens to me. No truly. I have such a small amount of personal experience with sunburn, that when my legs started getting red and tender later that evening I turned to Dan with a healthy amount of concern and said, “I think I’m having an allergic reaction to something.”

Yeah. An allergic reaction…to the sun.

Merciful heavens.

Despite that, we also bore witness to a small historical moment. For all the many years I’ve been visiting my family in San Francisco and enjoying trips to the beach, I have never before seen a live crab skittering around the sand. Only dead ones. Or remnants of dead ones. How’s that for foreshadowing.

We sat in our little beach chairs, reading and staring at the waves, and quite suddenly there appeared a crab, perched on a mini dune right before us. Uncertain if he was alive, we waited until he made a small circuit around his dune, then Dan cautiously approached him to get a closer look. (The photo at the top of this post was taken by Dan.) I — being the wimp pragmatic girl that I am and always wary of carnivorous creatures sporting too many legs who may be looking for a human toe snack — kept watch from the security of my chair. I mean, someone had to keep an eye on things, there could have been more of them. It could have been an ambush.

I have never been one to bear much affection in my heart for many-legged creatures. They are freaky, and I will stand by that very scientific conclusion until the end of my days. There was a spider who set up shop in the outdoor nook of one of our cottage house windows recently and I wanted to spray the thing right out of there with the lawn hose. Dan said I shouldn’t as that wouldn’t be very neighborly behavior. The point is, while I was interested to come across my first living beach crab, I wasn’t going to be inviting him over for afternoon tea any time soon.

But, he continued to sit there. Now and then the tide would reach him and he’d get a little salt bath. He might scuttle in response, but mostly he just sat. I began to imagine a little life for him. Perhaps he was shipwrecked and waiting here for his long lost love. Perhaps he was on the run from the law. Perhaps he really doesn’t like afternoon tea either, and is more of a coffee drinker like myself.

Perhaps I could find a little modicum of friendly tidings for this fellow.

And then the seagull attacked. It was like a scene out of a Hitchcock movie, except there was only one bird (at first) and it wasn’t even remotely interested in attacking me, Dan or the general population of San Francisco. As far as we could tell.

The gull grabbed our shipwrecked friend, flipped him over — the sight of those many legs flailing proving both terribly unsettling (why are there so many of them?) and more than a little sad — and pecked him. Several times. Definitively. The legs slowly stopped moving, the pinchers no longer pinching, and he perished. Then the seagull, now unhappily accompanied by a fellow gull or two trying to get in on this very fresh snack, started eating the crab. Right in front of us.

Within no more than 10 minutes, the crab was quite dead. Which is putting it mildly, but we don’t really need more details do we? As we related the tale later, we likened it to having a live version of the Discovery Channel play out in front of us. And though I, for a brief moment, thought about springing forward and defending the crab when the seagull first attacked, that’s not really how nature works. Sometimes you just have to let life run its course without interference.

So….good talk. I’m failing to come up with any really graceful exit strategy to this post. Also sort of wondering why this is the particular anecdote I chose to open the recap of our week-long vacation to San Francisco.

But there it is.

Seagulls, take us out!

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