Jul 232019
 

Shrimp. Little. Puny. Insignificant. It’s enough to give a crustacean an inferiority complex.

Generally speaking, reading a list of words like that could make anyone feel insignificant. I guess you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not any of us shrimp can actually read. As you’re about to learn, at least of few of us can spin yarns and tell tall tales.

a shrimp in an aquariumOnce upon a time, a school of shrimp migrated to a small but beautiful sandbar at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Those of our ancestors brave, curious, and strong enough to travel some of the 13 miles from tip to tip made another amazing discovery: this fabulous little sandbar was bounded on two other sides by magnificent rivers. One was named Amelia, the other St. Mary. The topography proved to be an ideal shrimp habitat and our community flourished. Most of us are breeding machines; when the eggs hatch, it’s often only a matter of hours before our females are carrying a new batch of fertilized embryos.

When We Were Fossils

A healthy, thriving community of shrimp is important for several reasons — not the least of which is the fact that when school children are introduced to fossils, our great-great-great-great-too-long-ago-to-come-up-with-the-right-number-of-greats grandparents are often in the picture. Our clan has been around for a very long time: about the same amount of time as yours has been dining on us.

Shrimp. Little. Puny. Insignificant. A wordlist that could give a crustacean an inferiority complex. Click To Tweet

Although home to many colorful pirates, Amelia Islanders are not typically thought of as a bloodthirsty crowd. But, if you’re a shrimp, you’d never know it. On the one hand, we seem to have settled in a place that almost worships us and on the other? Well, just imagine how it feels to be surrounded by people who seemed so passionate about… well… us. As food. As a matter of fact, if you’re feeling feisty and want to start a fight, show up at almost any Fernandina Beach social gathering and let them know you’ve finally found the ultimate recipe for shrimp and grits. Even the nicest of church ladies will get at least a tad huffy and set about proving you wrong. What a great way to sample a lot of mouth-watering shrimp and grits.

woman's hand holding a shrimp against sky and sea in backgroundEureka! We’re Rich!

Shrimp is the single most popular seafood in the United States. The commercial shrimp industry generates in excess of $50 billion a year; of the nearly 2,000 shrimp species, fewer than 20 are commercially harvested. Unfortunately for folks not ideally located, a great deal of that is farmed and imported. And, as much as I don’t want to endanger any of my wild-caught brethren, the polite thing to say it is the flavor is ‘radically different.’

Those shrimp farms are also a factor that may make the next generation of shrimpers consider other career paths. Of course, there have been a number of coastal towns that have adopted the title of Shrimp Capital of the World, but Amelia Island’s role in developing the industry leaves little doubt.

Scavengers, Snowbirds, and Swimming

The term shrimp is used to refer to some types of decapod crustaceans and, like others of our ilk, we are scavengers. However, unlike our crab and lobster cousins (and despite all those feet) we are much better suited to swimming than walking. And this makes our capture a bit different. Actually, quite a lot different. And this part of the story touches on our love of visitors from the North, affectionately know as ‘snowbirds.’

This part of the story touches on our love of visitors from the North, affectionately know as ‘snowbirds.’ Click To Tweet

While crabs and lobsters are caught in traps, that method does not work especially well for quarry that is swimming. And, from as far back as those pictured in Egyptian tomb paintings from 3000 BC up until the early part of the 20th century, shrimpers used a seine net strung between two boats. Weighted on the bottom, with floats on the top, they moved in tandem, capturing us as they moved.

Remember those snowbirds? Well, one of them was a fisherman from Gloucester, Massachusetts — one of the great maritime communities of the Northeast. While visiting friends on the island, he saw shrimp caught with seines. He offered friends a better way: Billy Corkum invented the otter trawl net, cutting the required number of boats in half. That’s the method still in use in and around the island today, where shrimpers bring us in: pink, white, brown, rock shrimp and, of course, the royal reds.

Where Did You Get Off the Boat, Mayport?

Whatever variety they first meet, once humans taste the real deal they can get pretty feisty about making sure they don’t end up with any of the imposters. In fact, not long ago, a lady was giving one of our supermarket fishmongers a tough time. She had tasted ‘Mayport shrimp’ and refused to settle for anything else. She didn’t want to hear anything about ‘Mayport’ being a location rather than a variety. It was as if the buyer was speaking French and the seller was speaking Farsi.

Finally, in an effort to maintain their relationship, perhaps to educate without insulting the fishmonger said, “Ma’am, they’re the same shrimp — they come from the same offshore beds. Does it really matter where they got off the boat?”

She had tasted ‘Mayport shrimp’ and refused to settle for anything else. Click To Tweet

cooked shrimp on a black plate with garnishesAmelia Islanders are pretty picky about their shrimp. They might not actually worship us, but, during the first weekend in May, it sure seems that way. For three days, the population swells by about 200,000 additional souls who pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy. In 1964, as part of the island’s Fiesta of 8 Flags, a boat race along the Amelia River provided a way for local shrimpers to have some fun and friendly competition during the offseason.  The event has since morphed into a major, regional festival using art, music, and, of course, good food — all to celebrate our relationship with the locals.

Imagine that: a parade and food and music and art — all in celebration of Amelia Island and its shrimp. Somehow that doesn’t feel either puny or insignificant!

Jul 102019
 

Ironic as it may seem, the humorless probably don’t fully appreciate crabs. Crabby people are frequently more the “crabs in a barrel” type. You know the kind. When crabs are in a barrel at a fish market, some of them try to climb to the top and make a break for freedom. Unfortunately for these liberty-loving crustaceans, their colleagues don’t quite grasp the concept or the end goal: they latch on to their optimistic, energetic peers and pull the prospective escapees back into the brine where they eventually will be purchased and — most likely — eaten.

So where does humor come in? Crabs are silly-looking creatures with odd movement. From the fiddler waving his little claws to the sideways scuttle of a ghost crab, it’s hard to look at them and not, at least, smile.

Unfortunately for these liberty-loving crustaceans, their colleagues don’t quite grasp the concept Click To Tweet

Ghosts of Amelia

What kind of crab best represents our beautiful island home? My first thought, of course, was the ghost crab. Quick. Shy. Mysterious. They conjure images of ghost ships and other piratey mysteries. After all, when it comes to an island, who doesn’t think of stories and secrets? Buried treasure. Haunted houses and castles. Shipwrecks. Little humans patiently digging and constructing on busy sections of the beach are not the only ones whose time in the salt air blurs fantasy and reality.

Our precious island has at least one notable shipwreck in reasonably recent memory— one that may have helped some of the human natives to have an exceptionally mellow Thanksgiving. The story involves a floundering Colombian shrimp boat, 25 tons of marijuana, a fuel tank, and a really, really bad decision about setting fire to the illicit cargo in an effort to destroy the incriminating evidence. The fact that it occurred early on a Thanksgiving morning makes me wish Arlo Guthrie had lived here at the time.

But, to get back to the point, what kinds of crabs live here and what do they do? Florida diners around the state have come to know blue crabs and stone crabs as a delicacy. They’re served both in fancy, white-glove locations and outdoors in buckets on newspaper-covered picnic tables. Small hammers are included as part of that utensil package. And Southern etiquette dictates they’re to be used only on the tasty crustaceans — never, ever on crabby dinner companions

Small hammers. Southern etiquette dictates they're to be used only on the tasty crustaceans... Click To Tweet

The NIMBY Crab

What species do crabbers and other aficionados look for on and around Amelia Island? Horseshoe Crabs. Hermit Crabs. Mole crabs. Blue Crabs. Stone Crabs. Fiddler Crabs. A bit more rare and toxic, but nevertheless sometimes observed around here: the occasional crabby neighbor, the NIMBY crab, the horn-honking crab, the “it’s different where I come from” crab, and, the ever-popular “close the drawbridge behind me” crab.

With any luck, nobody in these parts will be setting their traps for either crabby humans or their colleagues, the horseshoe crab. These prehistoric-looking critters— the crabs not the humans —  are omnivorous scavengers, scooping up small shellfish as well as algae and dead fish. Unfortunately, their roe is considered an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world, so, like too many other beings, they’ve been over-harvested. Horseshoe crabs that is. The others? Not so much.

These prehistoric-looking critters-- the crabs not the humans -- are omnivorous scavengers... Click To Tweet

But of the few crab species mentioned, the one I think best represents our little island is the hermit crab. Migrants and seekers, they do not seem to grasp the concept of going around an object, even if it’s another crab. In spite of their occasional funky, funny-looking feeler fights, they do better in groups than on their own. Contrary to what the pet store set would like us to believe, they do not make good starter pets. They get lonely. And loneliness plus unfamiliar water plus leeching from plastic terraria too often combine to equal fatalities.

They Cooperate and Collaborate

Hermit crabs offer a lovely mirror image of so many transplants from other climes. Known for shedding an exo-skeleton in favor of something larger, so many new islanders arrive in search of simplicity and engage in something called down-sizing.

But the little hermits also share characteristics with their lovelier, happier human counterparts: they cooperate and collaborate. In fact, they’re known for a special behavior called a vacancy chain in which as many as a few dozen critters gather ‘round a freshly washed up shell to figure out who’s the best fit for the new digs. From there, a smaller crab moves into the newly vacated shell, leaving behind a new, vacant space for someone smaller yet.

Of course, there are the ultimate sweet, adventurous human hermit crabs — the minimalist RVers who let everything go in favor of living in a movable shell in order to see this glorious country “while we still can.” I know that people who follow that particular lifestyle tend to help one another out when they can; I wonder if they know about vacancy chains.

 

Jul 012019
 

“Elvis has left the building.”

I was never a screaming fangirl who needed to hear those words over a PA system to know the party was over. The whole Elvis phenomenon was wasted on me for many years after his passing. Only then could I finally hear and appreciate his music without anyone trying to convince me of anything about it. But, despite his monumental talent, I’ll always remember Elvis in quite a different form.

There’s a favorite bit of family lore that focuses on a multi-generational fear of snakes. Back when Elvis was King and I was a small child, my Dad worked as a sales manager for a land company. A big project in North Carolina brought many fellow northerners to the salesforce and Dad spent a great deal of staff training time drilling about precisely what to do if they encountered a snake while showing land to prospective customers. Over and over. “No matter what, stay calm. Turn and walk in the other direction. Don’t even mention it,” he instructed.

What I didn't realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, it sure does run in the family. Click To Tweet

It seemed to be a sound policy. After all, there was no point in freaking people out unnecessarily, was there? It made loads of common sense until the day Dad was walking the land, heard the grass rustle, looked down, and shrieked, “SNAKE!” at the top of his lungs as his six-foot self hurried to the relative safety of the road.

My Dad tends to be a larger-than-life figure, so I’ve always enjoyed teasing him with this story: it brings him down to earth with the rest of us. What I didn’t realize is that his aversion to snakes, if not entirely genetic, sure does run in the family. Fortunately, my interactions with the creepy crawlies have been limited by Favorite Husband who almost always runs interference for me. Almost always. Almost.

He's a southern gent; there's a lot about him that feels like a drawl. Click To Tweet

“Excitement” is not a word that should come to anyone’s mind about anything in Florida during the month of July. It’s just too damned hot. Everything unwinds slowly, with most voluntary activity taking place either very early in the morning or late at night. Life takes place in the dark and, generally speaking, it’s not a terrible time of year for my husband to travel to his annual retreat. Life gets very lazy here.

It’s odd that our dog, Alex, should work his way into this story — he doesn’t waste a lot of motion even when the weather is cool. A nearly-albino boxer, he’s deaf, an attribute that serves to enhance his extreme aptitude for lengthy naps. He’s a southern gent; there’s a lot about him that feels like a drawl. I love it.

Still, it was July. I didn’t think much of his frequent trips to the laundry room. The floor is usually a little cooler there.

As I walked in to start a load of wash, I heard a loud thump. Turning towards the sound, I was startled by a very odd motion. When I recognized the flipping creature as a snake, the scream I let out rivaled my Dad’s. It didn’t phase Alex a bit.

Alex’s deafness makes him a keen observer of his surroundings, and he is especially fascinated by snakes: this was not our first encounter. My best guess is that he frightened the thing enough that it sought refuge atop of my ironing board. My subsequent shriek scared it to safety behind the dryer. I grabbed the dog, shut the laundry room door, and started to pace. My hands were sweatier than the rest of me. Excitement. July. I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it.

I was not going to be able to sleep with a snake in the house, but I had no idea how to get rid of it. Click To Tweet

When I took a break from hyperventilating, I remembered that one of my closest friends — the one who names every animal that has ever hopped, stepped, or slithered through her yard — was married to a former park ranger. I called. They came. I love my friends.

Of course, there was no sign of the snake. The pair went back home, and the full cycle repeated itself. This time, before leaving, my naturalist friend said, “Keep your phone in your hand. The next time you see the snake, keep your eyes on him while you call me.”

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the snake turned up again. I followed instructions. My stomach churned. Although they live within a couple of miles, I waited forever for rescue to arrive.

Armed with heavy gloves and a large, covered bucket, he cornered the thing. Sure enough, as he moved it into the bucket, the damned snake managed to bite him.

A bite from a black racer snake is far more annoying than dangerous. A little hot soapy water and a plastic bandage did the trick. With my sincere appreciation, the rescuer and his charge headed to another home in another neighborhood where his wife would gift it with a name. And, yes, as you have probably guessed: when my husband called home that evening, I was able to let him know what happened.

“Elvis has left the building.”

May 152019
 

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!

##

Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com