Posts Tagged ‘Melanie Hamilton’

The Post: Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara & Melanie Hamilton reappearing!

January 4, 2016

Well, it has been a long quiet time on Soul Mosaic, for good reason.  I have been very busy creating STEM programs at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC for these last almost 4 years. It is a fantastic job with the opportunity to reach out to students from all walks of life and engage them in the excitement that is science.

It is my passion to reach out especially to underserved students and schools and get them actively involved in science labs so they can see for themselves that a career in science is not beyond them. It is all about demystifying science and removing the fear.  I love it.

Soul Mosaic, though, has never left my soul.  I’ve just been on hiatus, feeding my soul in new ways.

As a result, I have some new things coming up in the next few months.

I am working slowly on plans for a series of book and article projects, some of which will draw directly from my Fiddler Crab experiences with Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara, and Melanie Hamilton.  Hence my favorite crustacean creatures will be reappearing in this blog and in articles and e-books in the coming months.

One – Fiddler Crab Love – will be lighthearted retrospective look at all the blog entries, couple with new comments on each one.

Another will be the The Soul Mosaic Quick Start Guide to Raising and Loving Fiddler Crabs.  I’ve accumulated a lot of experience and info on raising fiddlers and on things to do to get your setup going quickly and successfully (and keeping it that way).  So I will be publishing a short e-book on that in the coming months.

A third project – Molting Through Midlife – a soul work for sure, will be a deeper, more emotional journey through the years I was raising Admiral Byrd and company.  There was a lot going on in my life, and it’s time to look back from 5 years down the road, to explore the many truths that made themselves clear.  It will be my memoir of a difficult time, of struggle, survival, resilience, and how some tiny creatures led me to the path for a better life.

Beyond that, I have material in progress for a young reader book sharing the adventures of Admiral Byrd, Scarlett O’Hara, and Melanie Hamilton!

So I will be chronicling the progress of these projects here and keep all posted as to when and where they will be published.  In fact, for the duration, my entire focus on this blog will be these projects.  In the past I had many projects and topics I wanted to pursue.  I realize now it is time to narrow the focus…to, as I said in this early blog entry, Pick a Nipple. (If you never read that entry, please do for the explanation to what that comment means! 😉 )

I hope you will come along for the ride. Thank you!

PS  A gift to anyone in the Raleigh, Cary or Wilmington NC areas.  If you are at all interested in saltwater tanks, reef tanks (as well as freshwater tropicals, and of course Fiddler crabs 🙂 ) I found a great place with knowledgeable and helpful staff, and lots of tanks, critters and supplies:

The Fish Room

Check them out!

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The Post – Hey Baby! …. A Tribute to Admiral Byrd.

January 2, 2011

Hey Baby! He was always there – strong, intrepid, fearless, hopeful.  He never stopped waving his claw even when he was the only crab left. We’d come back from being out and would peer into the house from the garage door and we could see him – standing on his tank rock, the dark kitchen lit only by the light of his tank, all alone in the house, tank, world, and still, he was waving.

Fiddler crabs wave their claws to catch the attention of passing females in the hopes the female will choose the home they have made, instead of some other male’s nest. They also wave them to warn other males to stay away.

Admiral Byrd was the uncontested master of his world – the 10 gallon tank in our kitchen. He was one of three fiddler crabs we bought over two years ago. In that time he outlived Peter Lorre, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara, Melanie Hamilton, the Three Muses and a couple other males who didn’t live long enough to be named. He was the only one of them who was ALWAYS out exploring his tank – the females rarely emerged from the inside of their rock and the other males just sat in their rocks. He was always marching about the tank, even when he was brand new and he had no idea if this aquarium place was a deathtrap or a blessing. Admiral Byrd was the first, the best, and eventually, the only. There was only one Admiral Byrd and he lives on in our heart.

I buried him outside, just as I’ve done with the dogs, gerbils, hamsters, and rat. Because he was such a special creature in spite of being our smallest pet, I buried him in my meditation corner, right next to my statues of Buddha and Mary. (They’re a story for another day).

Now, to commemorate what a tremendous spirit he had in spite of being such a small creature, I honor him with this image of him in classic Admiral Byrd pose – out and waving. He is the logo picture for my Cafe Press store, and I have a whole line of products – mugs, T-shirts, note cards. I even have a case for my iPhone 4 that carries his picture. The “Hey Baby!” quote captures his unbreakable and commanding spirit. Humans could take a lesson from his never giving up.

So with Hey Baby!  on my storefront to remind me never to give up, I can always keep his spirit in me as I work my online store. And as I sip tea in a Hey Baby! coffee mug, I can still have Admiral Byrd with me in spirit, waving at me from the cup.  But most of all, he will live on in our hearts forever. 🙂

PS  If you would like to read the history of all the fiddlers, their antics, pregnancies, lives and deaths, just click here, or on the right sidebar page titled: And What’s the Deal With All the Fiddler Crab Stuff

The Post – Odd Goings-On in the Fiddler Tank – Is Scarlett Acting Pregnant Again?

March 16, 2008

When I first I walked by the fiddler tank yesterday morning, I was sleepy and oblivious. Then I did a double-take. Sitting at the front of the tank was the discarded molted shell of somebody. On closer examination, and with my husband’s consultation too, we both agreed it was Melanie Hamilton’s discard. That means she is at the moment most likely to get pregnant if Admiral Byrd invites her in.

At the same time we noticed that Scarlett O’Hara was sitting on top of the water filter….again. The last time she did that, we noticed shortly afterward that she was pregnant.

Admiral Byrd of course, was marching up and down the tank, claw arm held high, and waving.

To continue – Scarlett O’Hara spent the entire day and evening yesterday, on top of the water filter. She is still there this morning. She has never done that before or since, except when she was pregnant. I know she is still alive because she is “blowing bubbles.” Crabs foam sometimes when they’re out of water, to moisten their gills.

Even when I freaked out Admiral Byrd yesterday, and scared Melanie Hamilton out of her live rock because I was cleaning the tank and accidentally bumped the live rock, Scarlett O’Hara didn’t leave the filter perch. She just moved down into the filter for a bit, then climbed back up. Admiral Byrd meanwhile kept trying to climb the heater power cord up to the top of the filter to be near her, but he couldn’t quite do it with that large claw.

Yesterday afternoon we noticed that Melanie Hamilton remained outside the live rock, sitting there on the gravel serenely watching Admiral Byrd flex his claw. Then she spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in his cave lair. This morning she was resting just outside his lair, picking algae off the rock. He was napping inside.

With any luck, we can try the larvae thing again somtime soon?

I am in the middle of re-establishing the nursery tank. I had emptied everything from the original set-up, cleaned out the tank, put down the one inch or so of the calcium-releasing sand, and added the water. Now I did forget to rinse the sand out, so the tank water was cloudy at first, but it has settle out by now. I’m not sure how one effectively rinses sand out anyway without half of it going down the drain. I will say the white sand really makes the inside of the tank bright when the light is on. If we get babies again, it should be much easier to see them in such a bright tank.

I couldn’t decide whether to make the 3 gallons of water I added marine or brackish. I guess I should start brackish because first we’ll have to move the mom, whichever one of them it is, from their tank, which is brackish into this one. I wouldn’t want to shock them. Right now the tank is on the “marine side” of brackish. I’ll adjust the salinity with a bit more water shortly.

The live rock is back in the tank hopefully doing its thing to establish the nitrogen cycle. Both the air filter AND the bubbler are running and so hopefullly the tank environment will establish itself as quickly as possible. Rather than replace the old water filter cartridge and lose whatever nitrogen-fixing bacteria that had started to thrive in it, I left everything in place and returned it to the tank.

An interesting about the old water in that tank. I tested it before I emptied it out just to see if the nitrite levels ever came down. They read zero, and the nitrates were in the “okay” zone. I guess once I stopped using the live phytoplankton and let the water filter run for a few days, that was what it needed. So the phytoplankton was most likely the culprit in the high nitrites. In any event, I dumped the old water and just started with fresh sea/brackish water all over again.

One thing – that Reef Calcium product that I’d hoped would raise the alkalinity but not raise the pH, when added to half strength Instant Ocean… maybe it didn’t raise the pH but it didn’t solve the problem of the pH being too high from the Instant Ocean even when I used that at half strength. So I still had to use a pH lowering solution and this morning it is about 8.0 vs 8.4 that it was yesterday. So that’s perfect . At least though, the Reef Calcium did raise the alkalinity.

I will keep you all posted on any news from the adult tank. Keeping good thoughts for a new crop of larvae babies. Stay tuned.

The Post – Admiral Byrd is Peeking & New Aquarium Products

March 12, 2008

Some Fiddler Updates – New Product Technical Details and Romance

1) Preparations, Take 2, for the Fiddler Crab Nursery Tank:

I came home from PetsMart yesterday armed with calcium sand to replace the gravel in the nursery aquarium. That project will commence later today. The sand is actually something called Seachem Meridian Tidal Marine Substrate. It’s basically calcium carbonate precipitated from ocean waters by coral. It will stabilize the calcium and alkalinity levels in the water, and keep the pH from getting too low. Its porous structure and size supposedly are good for the growth of denitrifying bacteria. We shall see.

At the very least, it’s a dual purpose as I can also use this sand for the bottom of the land hermit crab cage I just bought. The land hermit crab project will be ramping up soon.

I also picked up some liquid food that should work fine for the larvae. I’d mentioned a product called JBL Nobilfluid that a gentleman from Finland used to raise his crab larvae. However the Nobilfluid is made in Germany and appears to be available in Finland, Germany, England, Italy and the UK, but I couldn’t tell if it was available here in the US. I could get it from a UK website but between the exchange rate and the shipping, I expect the cost is prohibitive. A JBL representative answered my email yesterday and said their product is not available in the US yet.

I found this new product at PetsMart called Kent Marine ZooPlex. The problem I had with the fiddler babies was trying to find liquid plankton to feed them. My mistake was getting live liquid phytoplankton, which made the tank toxic and killed them. I realized larval crabs need zooplankton, which is animal plankton = roughly translated: MEAT. Phytoplankton, being plant based, is the wrong plankton. Larval crabs are carnivores, not vegetarians. Anyway, Kent Marine ZooPlex is “concentrated aquacultured Marine Zooplankton” and is geared toward invertebrates including larvae. The bottle notes it can be used as a brine shrimp replacement. So this sounds like it might be just the thing for liquid feeding of newborn larval crabs who are too small to chase live brine shrimp around.

I will still need to get the dried brine shrimp eggs to hatch when I know I have a pregnant female ready to shed her eggs. The brine shrimp hatchery project will come a bit later.

2) How to raise the alkalinity of the water for the brackish tank without raising the pH?

The dilemma I have when using Instant Ocean to make up the brackish tank water for the adult crabs, is that I have to use it at about half strength. That way I get a salinity of about 1.010 instead of 1.020-1.024. The trouble is, that makes the alkalinity way too low meaning there’s not enough calcium in the water for the crabs when they molt.

I’ve tried adding Seachem’s Marine Buffer, to raise the alkalinity and it’s very successful, but it also raises the pH way up to 8.3. That’s fine for a marine tank, but for the brackish tank, the fiddler crabs seem to like the pH closer to 7.8-8.0 I have a constant battle trying to get the salinity low enough, the alkalinity high enough and the pH “just right” somewhere between a freshwater tank and a marine tank. When I use the Marine Buffer I have to then add something to lower to pH.

I was hoping to find something that would raise the alkalinity, but not the pH when I use Instant Ocean to make up the brackish water. Yesterday I came across Seachem’s Reef Calcium. The website description reads:

Reef Calcium™ is a concentrated (50,000 mg/L) bioavailable polygluconate complexed calcium intended to maintain calcium in the reef aquarium without altering pH.”

I am going to try the Reef Calcium product and see if that solves the problem. I will let you know.

3) Romance: a humorous update for a Wednesday:

Ever since his success with Scarlett O’Hara, Admiral Byrd has been out there claw-waving up a storm. Melanie Hamilton spends just about all her time inside the live rock. Yesterday afternoon is the first time I’ve seen her out of it in weeks. I think she took to hiding out in the rock when Scarlett O’Hara was living in the nursery tank. With Scarlett temporarily gone, Melanie was the total focus for Admiral Byrd. I don’t think she liked that.

Anyway, after giving birth, Scarlett O’Hara has been eating almost non-stop. I think she finally slowed up a bit yesterday, but she’s still pretty ravenous. In fact yesterday, I dropped a shrimp pellet in the tank and Scarlett scrambled up and caught the thing in mid-drop. It never even touched down on the gravel. And she’s pretty good. No fumbling and bobbling the shrimp pellet. She spotted it, she jumped, clutched it to her chest and landed on her feet, eating the pellet before she landed. She could probably earn a spot as an outfielder for the Red Sox.

Unlike Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett hasn’t been too concerned one way or another with Admiral Byrd’s where-abouts. She doesn’t run from him, or toward him. She just eats. Still, I don’t think she’s averse to his presence as she’s spent a fair bit of time in his lair, the fake rock cave, while he walks around waving his claw. I have to wonder if he realizes she’s sitting in his house?

Last night I turned off the tank lights, shut off all the house lights and went upstairs to bed. A little later I had to come downstairs for something and walked by the tank. Even in the dark, I could see Admiral Byrd standing there on his gravel hill, waving his claw. Total darkness, but the crab is still out there trying to get the attention of the ladies of the tank. What dedication.

He is also very funny in his pursuit of Scarlett O’Hara. He climbs to the top of the live rock, to wave his claw of course. Yesterday while claw-waving, he caught sight of Scarlett down on the gravel next to the live rock. He stopped waving, tip-toed to the edge of the rock, peeked over the edge at her to see which way she was going, then, like a teenage boy in love, scrambled down the rock and followed her around all the while waving his claw.

So watch out Scarlett, Admiral Byrd is peeking.

The Post: Fiddler Update – From Periods to Commas

March 4, 2008

Just a brief note today – buried in writing work, bills, and car stuff….reality creeps in. 🙂

The fiddler babies continue to thrive. I notice the numbers are down in the tank, and we also noticed they seem to congregate on the right side of the tank, near to the live rock. They swim in and out of the live rock crevices, and some do wander to the other side of the tank to investigate the water filter which is not running at the moment. They probably figure it’s another cave because any babies over there tend to hover under or behind the non-running water filter. But even as tiny guys, they know to keep to shelter.

My husband diligently checks on them with the flashlight and noted that they are bigger…he commented that since birth they have grown from “periods” to “commas.” It will be interesting to see how many survive. The tank is “ocean” level salinity now at around 1.020. I’ll keep it there until the 17th, which will be two weeks “in the ocean” for the guys. About that point I will start doing water changes and bring the salinity slowly back down to the brackish level I keep the adult tank at: 1.010-1.012.

I am keeping an eye on the nitrite levels in the babies’ tank since it’s up quite a bit. I added Amquel to lower the nitrites but I never really see that happen with that or Prime. I sometimes wonder if the solutions to bring the nitrites down are really “placebos” for the owners of the tanks? In any event, monitoring water quality, especially since I’m putting liquid food into the babies’ tank 3 times a day.

The adult tank has been “business as usual” – Melanie Hamilton spends most of her life hiding inside the live rock, Admiral Byrd is ALWAYS waving his claw these days, and about the only difference is Scarlett O’Hara. She must be recovering from “pregnancy and childbirth” because she has NOT stopped eating. She is shoveling in shrimp pellets and picking algae off everything, with both claws at once. She gives “two-fisted eating” a whole new meaning. It is non-stop, almost “frantic” in its intensity. I guess she is making up for lost time and nutrients. Otherwise, she seems fine.

That’s the goings-on today. Working on the next Under the Pier installment, hopefully to be done for tomorrow. Need to finish some chapter revisions first. Stay tuned.

The Post – Extra!!! We Are Grandparents!!! Scarlett O’Hara Delivers

February 29, 2008

I came out of the gym and my cell phone went off – the vibrating beep to indicate a text message. It apparently came earlier, but given the facility is blocked I only just received it. My husband sent it – a few simple words: We’re grandparents!” I understood immediately – our pregnant fiddler crab, Scarlett O’Hara delivered her thousands of babies.

When I left this morning, she was wandering around, not really interested in eating. Just walking around. Ed noted the same thing before he went upstairs to do some work. When he came down, he said she was just sitting there eating a shrimp pellet … and she was skinny. He did a double-take and noticed the babies were gone from her abdomen, and all these little teeny really teeny black dots, floating around the tank!!!

As soon as I got the text, I raced to PetsMart to pick up the liquid baby fish food called “Small Fry” and raced home. Did you ever notice how many asleep drivers there are on the highway when you’re trying to get home fast?

I quickly got Scarlett out of the nursery tank as my husband reminded me, because at this point, Scarlett’s maternal instincts are probably done. In fact she may view them as floating “cheeseburgers” and start munching. So I moved her back into the main tank. It was like she never left. Not even a second to re-adjust for her. She just walked over to the live rock and started picking off algae and eating. Kind of like “Ahhhh – good to be home.” I don’t think Admiral Byrd has noticed her return yet. Not sure about Melanie Hamilton. She’s been in seclusion since Scarlett O’Hara left the main tank, probably hiding out from Admiral Byrd who has been waving his claw non-stop these days. I expect Melanie may be relieved to have Scarlett back.

Anyway, just had to let you all know she has successfully birthed. I will keep you posted on what happens from here. We’ll see how many, if any, of the babies survive!!! 🙂

The Post – Admiral Byrd was NOT Worshipping Me or The Aquarium Light

February 11, 2008

Over the last 2 days my husband noticed that Admiral Byrd has been spending a LOT of time, meaning almost ALL of his time, up on top of the gravel hill or the decorative cave rock, or the live rock, or just about anywhere else in the tank, waving his claw. He looked so funny up on the cave rock. He seemed to be staring up at the aquarium tank light, waving his claw as if paying homage to a god. We figured either he held the aquarium light or my hand in high esteem.

My husband has joked that he thinks the crabs go inside the live rock so much because it’s actually their holy site. He thinks they’ve cobbled together a crude altar made of gravel and on the altar they’ve fashioned a shrimp pellet image of their deity, the hand that feeds them . . . basically mine. As he put it, imagine that every day a hand comes down out of the sky and places steak or shrimp or pancakes in front of us. That’s what it must be like every time my hand drops algae or shrimp pellets near them.

In any event we weren’t sure why Admiral Byrd decided to spend an entire day paying homage to me or the light. Why all of the sudden? There’s been nothing new going on in the tank otherwise, all three crabs have been actually pretty placid, out and about feeding, and generally happy. Was this some sort of designated crab “Holy Day” that just happens to coincide with Lent?

As it turns out, alas, neither the aquarium light nor my hand are the object of Admiral Byrd’s devotions. Melanie Hamilton is.

From the Fiddler Crab page on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s bay restoration site:

“When looking for a mate, he stands near the edge of the burrow, often alongside a string of other males and their (similarly well-maintained) burrows, while the females, returning from foraging, walk past. The male waves his large fiddler claw until he attracts the attention of an interested female, who then stares at him for a short period.. The male resumes his claw-waving, and if the female remains receptive, the male runs toward her, then runs back to his burrow, and repeats this motion several times until she either moves on or follows him to the burrow. ”

Apparently, mating behaviors take place not just when the female forages, but also when she molts. I happened to notice this pale, upside down body lying under the water filter this morning and immediately my heart hurt. I thought “Oh no! Melanie Hamilton died!” But not so. Looking closer, I saw that it was the pale ghost of Melanie Hamilton. It was that eerie translucent white, like Scarlett O’Hara’s was, though much more petite given that Melanie Hamilton is so dainty. Melanie Hamilton sat right behind it. I would have gotten pictures for this blog but she had tucked herself and her tiny ghost so far under the water filter that I could not get a shot. If only I had fiber optic cable, maybe I could get footage! I have concluded that the fiddler crabs have designated the “under the water filter space” as the “molting place.” All 3 have used it now. I think it has enough stretching room to shrug off the old shell, but is sheltered enough to keep everyone else away while their new shell hardens.

Admiral Byrd of course, was well aware of events in the tank. He was standing just a few inches from the water filter hoping to catch her eye. Alas, while Admiral Byrd is a true romantic and his efforts were truly heroic – I mean he has to be exhausted after almost 24-hours straight claw-waving – Melanie Hamilton is having none of it. She has turned her back on him and remains secluded under the water filter.

But anyway, the mystery is solved. Admiral Byrd doesn’t give a darn about the tank light or the hand that feeds him. He apparently can sense the approach of “molting” and was doing the crab Valentine’s Day equivalent of serenading his lady.

Sorry no pictures, though. I told my husband if he ever decides to spend money on expensive jewelry or clothes for me, I would prefer one of those borescopes like they use for colonoscopies. That would work GREAT in the tank for closeups of everybody! 🙂

Coming up this week:

Now that you’ve gotten to know me a bit – a cross between sea life maniac and soulful – I’ll start to introduce some of the projects I’m working on. I’ll share what I’ve done, what I’m doing and where I see myself going. Children’s writer and illustrator, Uri Shulevitz, described three stages of a writer’s development at a conference about 12 years ago. I’ve kept them as a kind of road map in my development and will use them to describe what I’m doing.

Also to come, a Writer’s bio page of what I’ve already written.

Happy Monday!

The Post – The Ever Reclusive Melanie Hamilton, Exposed

February 1, 2008

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After several attempts over many days, I can at least prove there IS a Melanie Hamilton. Again the shots are a little dark. Flash won’t work due to the glass sides of the tank, so that leaves long exposure times to get enough light. The only problem with the latter is that unlike fashion models who will hold a pose so their best side shows, crabs won’t hold still. Make the exposure time too long and all you get is a blur. I have a lot of those. So I had to sacrifice some light for clarity.

The first picture shows just how much like Howard Hughes Melanie Hamilton can be. Most of the time she barely peeks out of her live rock crevice. Here all that shows are a couple of legs.

The second shot no doubt annoyed her. With the aid of a long exposure time on the camera and an Ever-Ready 5-volt flashlight shining in her face, we finally get a glimpse of Melanie Hamilton hiding in the ornamental cave in the tank. She looks grumpy.

After escaping the flashlight, Melanie now peeks out from behind the cave, probably to see if the coast is clear.

The last two pictures show her in a rare foray outside of the live rock. She seems to like the ornamental cave, and spends part of her time eating microscopic algae off its sides. They do that with fluid movements of their two front claws, delicately picking off invisible algae with the pincers on the claws.

Soon, the dashing and cute Admiral Byrd.

The Post – Scarlett O’Hara and her molted ghost

January 31, 2008

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Well, I’ve been promising pictures of the fiddler family members so let’s start with Scarlett O’Hara and her recent molt.

The first picture shows her just after she molted, climbing down the side of the water filter. I love how they can have their eyestalks going in two directions as they move about. If you look closely, the right eyestalk is vertical, while the left one is scanning in a horizontal direction. Off to the right in the picture, her whitish “ghost” sits, discarded. With the water currents waving the legs and claws back and forth, the discarded shell looked eerily alive.

The second one shows her nestled safely under the water filter and behind her old self (fuzzy part in front), where she rested for some time. It is not unusual for newly molted crabs to hide. Their new shells are soft at this point and they feel vulnerable. So they hide to give themselves protection as their new shell hardens.

The third picture though a bit dark, gives you a close-up view of the ghost version. You can see the empty leg, claw and eyestalk casings. I will add that the “ghost of Scarlett O’Hara” no longer exists. Admiral Byrd ate it. Perhaps he is getting ready to molt. Crabs often eat discarded shells to reclaim the calcium the shells contain.

Last picture shows Scarlett O’Hara when she finally emerged from under the water filter. Still a bit tentative, she sought shelter under an overhang on the Live Rock.

These were all from Saturday, the 26th. Today she was back to her old self, running around the tank and eating. Maybe I can get a lighter picture of her now that she’s out and about. I need to work on “lighting” issues for these, but still, not bad considering no flash and long exposure times.

Soon to come, Admiral Byrd and Melanie Hamilton!!!

The Post – Caring, is catchy

January 30, 2008

Probably the most interesting thing in the fiddler crab experiment is my family’s reaction to them. My son came home from college at Christmas and initially looked at me like I was crazy because I talked so much about the crabs. In fact, my independent college student complained I was paying more attention to the fiddler crabs. He kept laughing at me as I talked to the crustaceans in that high-pitched mommy voice previously reserved for my toddler son and pet poodles. My husband just kept teasing me about the total amount we were up to on fiddler crab expenditures.

Within of day of being home, my son started watching them, and within a few days he was keeping track of who was doing what and telling me to check on Melanie Hamilton or Rhett Butler. In fact, I think he was the one who first noticed that Rhett Butler was dead.

My husband was the one who spotted Scarlett O’Hara molting and eagerly called me over to see her when I came in from grocery shopping. Last night, he came in from work and before he even said hello to me he stopped, peered in the tank and said with great concern, “There’s something wrong with Admiral Byrd! I think he’s dead!” As it turned out (after I poked Admiral Byrd with my latest acquisition, a 25 cc plastic pipette and bulb from Science Safari that I use to siphon out excess food), I think Admiral Byrd was just sleeping – they kind of hang there, their claws floating above their heads, and don’t react to much. But my husband walked away and said very seriously, “I think you’d better keep an eye on him.”

What I realized is that caring, like a cold, is an occupational hazard of sharing space. When you share space, even with a creature who has a brain the size of a pinpoint, it starts to get personal. When it’s personal, you start to care, even when you didn’t mean to.

I think the same thing happens with people. So often you hear people say, “I don’t like this group or that.” Then they meet someone from that group and find out they really are okay . . . maybe even . . . nice. It’s hard to share space – sit across the table from someone, hear their humanness, see it in their eyes – and not care. That’s the real risk factor I suspect . . . contact . . . sharing space. The minute you share the space, you start to see the real person. Once that happens, it’s personal. And once it’s personal, you’re done for because caring is catchy.