The Way of the Crab

On your annual trip to the island, there are certain things you will only encounter if you rise in that hour when the moon melts and the sun yawns and stretches toward the new day. I know this because, left to the powers of inertia, these two weeks inevitably return me to my natural state: late nights and late mornings, something Miska has accepted (encouraged even), though she does not understand. When the wise ones speak of the ways that love must learn to sacrifice for the other, they typically do not have in mind grand gestures such as jumping in front of a bullet or draining your 401K to fulfill your spouse’s dream of sailing a 22-foot cutter to Portugal. Rather, I imagine they envision something more like your early-rising wife slipping gently out of bed so as not to wake you, making certain to leave warm coffee in the pot and ever so softly exiting to answer the ocean’s call.

However, at least once or twice on these trips, a fellow has to be the first to set the beans to brew, the one to sit solitary on the sand and watch the dolphins pass. All the better if the gods, aware that these moments are few, insist on their version of fireworks and allow me a front row seat as the Super Moon tips its hat upon exit.

When you sit quiet on the sand at dawn, this is when you catch sight of the large sand crabs who rarely crawl out their labyrinth tunnels during the day. One particularly large crab, with two beady eyes, emerges from his hole no more than fifteen feet from me. He climbs out slowly, eyes taut, watching me, watching me. He stares me down for minutes. I do not move. Is this how prizefighters feel, peering from their corners, before the first bell? I need to scratch my face, but I am in a contest. I do not want to lose, and I do not want to scare the fearful crustacean back underground.

The crab sits frozen, not so much as a twitch. After a long and vigilant surveillance, the crab commences a skittish dance, maybe 10 inches, to the right, tosses a small load of sand out of his claw, dances back to his hole, stares me down for another minute or two, then disappears. This scenario repeats over and again. The little beast’s eyes never slacken, never move off me. The dance is always sidewise, keeping me in full view. The crab moves quick, jerky. I am his sole attention.

Many of us exist in the way of the crab. We live skittish, furtive. We take all our cues from others. We hop sideways, eyes strained for any hint of disapproval. Even when we show ourselves or offer something of ourselves, we move measured and tentative, a demonstration that we’re about to hang our sense of well-being on the way our gift will (or will not) be received. We want to be noticed, and we do not want to be noticed. It’s an exhausting, tenuous subsistence.

I want to tell the crab to watch the waves and the gorgeous moon and those magnificent dolphins, not me. I’d love to see the crab dance bold, maybe strut the Tango or even the Harlem Shake across that sand. Now that would be something.


Many people I know and love are in transition. Some are packing their belongings and moving cross-country. Some are welcoming children into their lives. Some, for the first time, know an empty, quiet home. Some are saying “I do.” Some are lamenting how “I do” was not strong enough to hold them together. Some fear the future; some are eager. All will, in one way or another, be changed. All of us will.

Whenever we let loose of what we’ve known, or what we’ve wanted to hold tight, we experience true loss. It is right to grieve friendships or dreams or a way of life we can no longer keep near. Whenever we embrace a transition we’ve eagerly awaited, we find a brightness that enlivens. It is right to run forward, to give ourselves wholeheartedly to new possibilities.

Either way, however, we simply continue our story. We are becoming the person we are intended to be. When we move further into our life, we do not leave behind all that was before. Rather, we carry it with us (or maybe it carries us). The identity we’ve been given continues to form us and instruct us. We simply allow life to stretch us into new places. Our heart grows larger.



image by gareth weeks

Walk Forward

walk_forward_winn_collier_writerIn a culture obsessed with centerfold beauty and youthful vigor, we rarely know what to do with the fading years, the aging bodies. We are tempted to think of a withered frame or declining health as the great tragedy. However, I will tell you the greater tragedy, and it is not a life where the flame has been reduced to flicker. It is a life that never kindled the fire. The deepest sadness is not for the one with their life almost entirely spent, but the one who never really spent their life at all.

Some men live their years as mere shadows of other men. These shadow-men never buckle on their courage or plant two firm feet in a place or with a people they call their own. They never mark out their land. Some women never step into their strength or own their unique beauty. Existing as mere caricatures, they bridle their truest self. Perhaps their strength scares them, perhaps the disapproval of others chains them. I cannot say. I can only say that none of this is true living.

There comes a point in our life, and I think the 40’s is as good a decade as any, when we must decide to walk out from the shadows, to cast off the caricatures. We must be brave. While friendships and brotherhood will come to mean more and more to us, we will rely less and less on others’ opinions. We will live in the fellowship of courageous women and men, giving and receiving, journeying together – but we will not wait for their cues to brandish our gifts and unleash our passions. We see the glory in others, and we speak it. We see the glory in ourselves, and we receive it.

A final word. You can not make such a transition happen. Any pushy attempt at self-made maturity will only yield foolishness: self-importance, braggadocio and a brand of adult-adolescence far too prominent in our day. You can only watch and wait, listening to and learning from those wise ones ahead of you. And then, when your time comes (and here I believe the only wisdom we have is the old truth: you will know it when it arrives), we rise up and say yes. We walk forward.

Weeping, Then Laughing

Lent is 40 days. Easter runs 50. This matters.

While Lent blocks the exit for those chipper souls who’ve never seen a sorrow they couldn’t deny, Easter opens the floodgates on parched souls who’ve come to believe only in a life barren and brittle.

But – and this is what we must not miss – Easter trumps Lent. Lent owns its grey space, and the good news is no good news at all if we do not sincerely wrangle with the sad facts scattered about us. But then Easter comes and flips on the sunshine and cranks up the jukebox and opens the windows and breaks out the margaritas. Death is very real, Easter says, but Jesus alive is more real. Get up and dance.

Easter does not arrive as a joy easy won. Easter is the dance of the mourner who has grabbed the alleluia in a headlock and won’t let go. In Easter, those who dwell in the valley of the shadow of death gather up their courage and bend their ear to the Church’s witness of the risen Jesus. Then, in an act both brave and costly, these reckless souls let the light in. They open themselves to another possibility. They slowly start to tap their toe. With all their might, no matter how fragile or sparse, they begin to practice joy. They begin to Easter.

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.

The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.
― Rumi