Archive for the ‘Protection’ Category

Mark has a game he likes to play recently, that goes like this:

“Mom (or Dad), I have a really interesting question. How do wolves (giraffes, bears, snakes, whales, dogs, worms … you get the picture) protect themselves?”

Then we try to think of good, comprehensive answers. We love this game. Really, it’s so fun. I’ve impressed myself several times with my own knowledge of the defense mechanisms of a lot of different animals. Also with the amazingly varied ways that animals protect themselves.

He hasn’t yet asked how people protect themselves, thank goodness. I’m not ready to tackle that one yet, but I’ve started thinking about it anyway. Thinking about my own actions. How much of what I do is at bottom a way of protecting myself? Is there a higher good than self-protection, when it comes to humans? Do we expend more energy protecting ourselves from real dangers, or attempting to protect ourselves from imagined dangers? What interesting questions.

Until recently I would have said that I was afraid of sharks. Not afraid enough to keep me out of the water when we’re at the beach, but afraid enough to be thinking about them a lot, and to shriek every time something bumps into my leg. Did I have a plan for what to do if the thing bumping into my leg were really a shark? Nope. Don’t actually talk to me about whether or not it is a real danger. La la la, I don’t want to know! But maybe it was not a real fear. A few days ago in a sea kayak I had a close encounter with a few bonnet-head sharks. Think hammer-head, but with bonnets instead of hammers – suddenly sweet, right? And I was so NOT afraid. First of all, they were not very big. And then there’s the fact that they are beautiful. I mean, I couldn’t see the whole sharks – just the fins! – but what lovely pearly pinkish-grey fins they were. So maybe I can cross sharks off my list of things to be afraid of. Even if I am still afraid of them, this is my magical defense mechanism: collecting shark’s teeth.

Yes, I am addicted to hunting for shark’s teeth. Fossilized shark’s teeth, to be exact. They are SO old! You can’t pick up anything else off the ground that is that old, except rocks. (And hey, I collect those too.) Strewn about in the sand – teeth that belonged to sharks millions of years ago! I’m not kidding! Not having been to the beach too many times as a kid (mountain childhood instead), I never knew you could beach-comb for anything but shells, or maybe sea glass, until I married Seth and started coming to Beaufort. But from the first time my mother-in-law picked up a little black triangle from the sand and showed it to me, I was hooked. I wanted to find my own so badly. Eventually I found one. And then another. And then a lot. Today I came back from the Sands with more than twenty, including the biggest one I’ve ever found. (We met a guy who told us where you have to look to find the really big ones. He’s found Megalodon teeth!) If you haven’t done it, you just don’t know how exiting it is. But here, I’ll simulate the experience. Take a look at this picture, and see if you can find the tooth:

Here’s another one:


One more, with my foot for perspective:


Did you find them all? If you did, you’ve probably done this before. If you found them all within a few seconds, you’re probably my mother-in-law. (Hi Mimi!) And are you hooked yet? If so, you should come and look for some.

A few years ago, shortly after Mark was born, I took a class in translating poetry led by an Hungarian poet and translator. Lovely, dear man. Incredible poet. He wrote beautifully about visiting Tybee Island on a previous trip to the states. It was clear that the seaside was important to him. So at the end of the semester, before he left, I sewed a small bag and filled it with some of my precious shark’s teeth and gave it to him. At first he was mystified. “What are they?” he asked. “Shark’s teeth,” I said, but it took a while for him to believe that I was not being metaphorical, or that they were not some kind of seed that was called “shark’s teeth.” Then he asked, with perfect innocence, “What will they do?” I said I didn’t know. “Perhaps they will protect me from evil spirits,” he said and, looking at me seriously, “there are evil spirits.”

I believed him. I still do. Some times more than others I feel the evil spirits closing in. Fear, despair, anger, regret. That’s my own personal crowd. And if anything could protect me from them, I believe it would be these ancient remnants of powerful creatures that I am, still, kind of afraid of. I’m not quite at the point of sewing them into all Mark’s clothing, but obviously the idea occurred to me, so I’m not far off. Would that be crazy? Something important to know about humans, as well as other animals, is that we don’t only try to protect ourselves.

*Kudos to you if you know what song this is from. And that’s got to be what he’s talking about, right? Today Mark kept going between me and Seth and saying, “Hey Mom (or Dad), are you finding any luck?” Which was so cute.


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