This has been a few months coming, but I can wait no longer, nor should you have to.
The little critter you see below is the Sand Bubbler Crab, and I met him and his squillion relatives late last year on a family holiday up north, way north.
I have much to say about this encounter and I'm not sure that I'll get it all out today, so might be just a meet and greet.
It wasn't the crabs we encountered first but, but the work of the crabs. We had spent most of our first day travelling and taking care of logistics, such as making sure we had enough tropical produce and watercolour paper for the week we'd spend deep in the Daintree Rainforest. On day two, we were ready to expel any remnant funk of our long Peninsula winter and to immerse ourselves in sweet tropical happiness.
After an early morning session on the deck, and second stop is obviously the beach, and here is where the wonder and amazement began.
As we walked on the the beach, it was clearly low tide and our isolation was apparent. It was one of those beaches where you think there's a chance you might be the first person to step onto it - except that the was a stick tied to a rope, tied to a tree, so the discovery wasn't ours but at least the'd left us a swing. Once I'd tested out the swing and then been kicked off by my littl'ns, I noticed an uneven texture to the sand right across the whole beach. We had all day, actually we had all week, so I went for a little wander. I cannot think of a word that adequately conveys my delight at discovering what this "texture" on the sand was. Part thrill, part enchantment, part David Attenborough curiosity. I think it was the thrill component (certainly high pitched) that came out of my mouth as I insisted everyone else stop what they're doing and get their eyes to this magic right now!!!!
My family were suitably impressed which meant that I didn't need to spend the following days trying to put my awe into words for them. They got it. At this point we still didn't know how these tiny pearls of sand came to be, and we had no mobile coverage for googling. There weren't even any locals to ask for a few days.
Of the week we spent in the Daintree, not a day went by that I didn't gaze into these mini creations and marvel. Marvel at their number, their precision, the incredible shapes they were laid in and the sheer work ethic of the thing that put them there. Wandering along the beach at Cape Tribulation a few days later we saw our first Sand Bubbler Crab. The teeniest little creatures, only visible when they moved, cover the beaches in these little spheres every low tide. Watch the vid up top for an explanation from Sir Attenborough himself.
What has this holiday brag got to do with drawing and painting and whatever else it is artists do? Well everything now. My creative life is now divided clearly into the Pre-Bubbler Crab period and now the Post-Bubbler period. Crouching down, studying the little gems in their arrangements I first thought "Wow, Mother Nature must be pissing her pants at the slop that us two-legged hacks call art". Compared to this, how was anything I created going to be a thing of "beauty".
A few days later, I changed my attitude. There was a reason I was so taken with this. A reason why I couldn't get enough. People are drawn to different things at different times. Not everyone was as obsessed with these forms on the beach as I was. (Equally, I was not as "into" the roadhouse-style chicken and chips on offer as some others were.) Some people are moved by birds in formation, others by the drama of a thunderstorm. I think that marvels of nature like this are placed on the earth for the joy and inspiration of those who "see" them. They challenge us to look closer, sit more quietly, for longer, and see what happens, see what's possible.
Rather than laughing at me, I think Mother Nature has issued me a challenge. Sand Bubbler crabs create from instinct, from their source, from their truth. They're not trying to out do each other, or or imitate, or impress. They get up out of their burrows and do what they do because that's what they do and the rhythm of the turning tide is their deadline. That I happen to stand around, take notice and indeed be moved by the results of their actions is irrelevant. They're doing it whether I'm there gushing or not.
The challenge afoot is for me to do the same. To work and create from my truest, deepest me. To work on, regardless of the opinions of those around me good or bad. And to let myself be guided by the natural rhythms that are around me.
In essence - get out of my own way and let the art emerge.