Blog

Miracles

Horseshoe Crabs

I was walking on a city sidewalk the other day and happened to look up. There, silhouetted against the gray sky, a lilac branch held a small head of buds. The flower buds were still tightly furled, the leaf buds open just a crack. I stopped for the briefest of seconds to take it in. A miracle, I thought, the ceaseless turning from bud to flower to death to rest and then bud again.

Later on the radio, I came into the middle of a conversation in which a woman was describing the migration of a 5-ounce bird called a red knot from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego and back again, a journey of 9,000 miles. I recalled the many stories I have heard of migrating birds, and I was filled with wonder. Another ordinary miracle, I thought.

But then I heard her talk about a particular event that happens on the migration. Each year, in spring, at the highest of high tides that come with the new and full moons, thousands of horseshoe crabs emerge from the water onto the sand in Delaware Bay. She had sat on the beach until just the right moment to see the scurry to lay their eggs and then return to the sea. The whole process was over in less than an hour.

The next morning, she said, that beach was covered as far as she could see in both directions with migrating birds, including red knots, packed so tightly she could not see sand between them. They were stuffing themselves with horseshoe crab eggs, making one of their annual stops to replenish themselves before continuing their flight north.

Horseshoe crabs are ancient creatures. They have survived all the major extinctions including the first, the End-Ordovician, which killed off 85% of the species on the planet. And here, in this intricate dance of chance and adaptation, their profligacy of eggs supports the life of these birds in exactly this way. An extraordinary miracle, I thought.

My heart, my mind—even, it felt like, my body—expanded to an infinity of embrace, something big enough to take this in. And yet this is just one of the nearly infinite extraordinary miracles that make up our earth’s living systems and that brought about the emergence of our own human species. I am bowed in awe and gratitude.

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About Katherine Power

I didn’t set out to be a terrorist. As a student activist, I moved from protesting the war in Viet Nam to waging guerrilla war to overthrow the government….

Recent and Upcoming Appearances and Publications
1/15/2014 Complexity and Social Change, Occupy Radio
10/31/2013 Surrender, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
10/25/2013 Surrender, Taos Community Theater, Taos, NM

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