The beach at the Casuarina Coastal Reserve was very long, and people who left their snorkel-equipped Landrovers in the parking lot only wandered in the nearest quarter mile of it. For the rest of the shoreline, as far as the eye could see, there was nobody. The Pacific chose to be calm, and small waves ran ashore, at an angle this time, filling the air with the rhythmic whoosh of the gentle surf.
I was walking along, with my camera in my hand and my scattered thoughts in my head, and it seemed not to matter where to go. The cynical ones of us might sarcastically note that it is easy not to worry about where to go if one is well fed, has a car waiting and a hotel room to go back to. I would reply that I actually forgot to eat in the last 12 hours, and wasting time for that now seemed sacrilegious in this last hour before sunset. At the moment none of that really mattered. I was alone on an endless Australian beach and I had all the time in the world. All two hours of it.
Have you ever had a split second moment when feelings and emotions all of a sudden seem bright colored, vivid, and you get a glimpse at something quite common as if it is brand new to you, never seen before, or as if you are seeing it from a new, different angle?
The sand was light brown and very fine, dry and leaky, and it formed tiny dunes all of two inches high. There was a track on the sand, a small series of dimples and dashes, angled after each other in one direction, weaving through the tiny dunes. And at the end of it was a small hermit crab. I stopped and lowered my backpack to the ground, then kneeled in the sand. The tiny creature was hiding in its shell, content and safe, and did not move. Neither did I. The tracks it left in the sand all of a sudden connected with the open ocean, with the sky above, with the trees along the shore, and with me.
The constant feeling of hurry, pressing obligation and lack of time fell off like the wall of water from a broken aquarium glass. I for the first time in ages saw the sun, and the beach, and the surf, and it all was different than before, even though nothing has probably really changed. The little crab still lay motionless in the sand, attached to the end of its track, just like we all are attached to the invisible track we leave behind us in our lives. Is that track good? Is it bad? Does anyone care to see our track and to kneel over it, and will it flash back their memories if they did?
Who knows. The moment was fleeting, and it passed. I tried to hold on to it but I couldn’t.
Here it is, the hermit crab that can help the life to regain the meaning. I sincerely hope you find yours.