Tonight, as the sun slid down over the casuarinas and the boats made steady progress in front of our house, home from a Saturday at the Cays or back from Town, I was reluctant to run. It had been a full day-- we passed on going to the Independence Day parade in Town and kids yoga on the dock to stay home. We made a stack of thick coconut pancakes and Toledo bacon for breakfast, followed by a family boat trip along the dive sites of the South Shore. We dropped in and out of the water, snorkeled the cave at Big Rock and searched for J's kiteboarding leash in the shallows. We didn't find his leash, abandoned during a dicey shore landing last week, but we did meet a bad-tempered spotted moray.
A sunny day on the water takes it out of you, and after editing for the rest of the afternoon, I was ready to sit out and drink a glass of wine at sunset, but Amigo insisted we go. I'm not much of a distance or a speed runner but I am doggedly devoted to logging some miles at the end of the day. (I talk about my relationship with running in this essay.)
After weeks of flip flops, my sneakers feel like stones, like 80's aerobics ankle weights. Tonight I saw fingers of lightning on the mainland, and heard the rustle of wind in the sea grapes. Rain would be good news for our cistern, which ran dry again this week, but bad for my iPod. I went anyway. In spite of the heat, I layered up against mosquitoes and bad weather, sprayed myself with bug juice, called my perro and set out.
The first part of our run is along a narrow trail through a tangle of sea grapes, palm and almond trees, ten yards above the shorebreak. I had my headphones on, so I didn't hear them rustling in the dried leaves and underbrush. Amigo was in a feisty mood, nipping at my side, and when we hit the open beach, he leapt and twisted in the air beside me, demanding attention and some training, so I didn't notice them at first. When I finally looked down, they were everywhere. Dozens of land crabs on the white sand, dukes up, boxer dancing in their side-stepping sashay from the bush to the water.
We had just arrived on Utila when this happened before, a month ago, walking home from the marina after a boat ride home from dinner. One of them managed to find her way up inside my bootleg jeans; I screamed like a gringa. It is breeding season for the Cardisoma guanhumi, or Blue Land Crab. After mating, the females carry their eggs, as many as 700,000 under their armored bellies for two weeks, before they bring them down to wash them and deposit them in the shallows. This happens most often around full moons in the nights from July to November.
I jogged in the soft sand past the soon-to-be-opened restaurant, west, where it is wilder, where rutted Polaris tracks covered in island pine needles mark the trail along the beach, and everywhere, skittering out of my way, confusing Amigo, there were crabs. I made noise and watched my step, until I came to a point where I simply couldn't go anymore. From the water to the treeline, the ground was a carpet of crabs.
I realized the kids would love to see this and Amigo and I raced the mile home. We abandoned music and came back with Hayden and headlamps as the light was nothing more than a watery gray by then. We ran, clapping and laughing, as more and more came out under the cover of darkness.
Generous, Hayden suggested we go back for his brother and sister, so they wouldn't miss this incredible experience. Another sprint back, the ground crawling with them, and now it was truly dark. A cloudy sky, night bird sounds, the increasing wind, the hum and slap of the unlit boats making their way on the ocean, we brought Piper and Max out to the beach. Running was impossible this time. They crawled over our feet, danced out of our way, their eyes glinting. Our lights picked up glowing underneath the crabs, covering the sand and sparkling like diamonds, too far up the beach to be bioluminescence and first I wondered if they were lost eggs, but it was greenish blue gleam of tiny spider's eyes.
On the way home, we laughed and dodged and made noise, feeling them pass over our feet, marveling at their size, their numbers, hundreds, thousands, "Infinity!" Piper suggested. Amigo darted between us, highstepping like a nervous show pony. We stayed out until the raindrops chased us home.
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