May 03, 2005

Brittany: The march of the crabs

A Breton proverb:

E-lec'h ma vez tre ha lanv
E c'hell pep hini lakaat e anv.

La ou il y a flux et reflux,
chacun peut inscrire son nom.

Where there is ebb and flow,
everyone can write his name.

We'd rented a house on France's Rose Granite Coast in Brittany, a Celtic world in a Gallic country. We'd had previous success with rental agency Interhome and booked through them again, and they did not disappoint. For less than the price of two double hotel rooms for the week, our family of four lived regally in a seven-room house on a grassy hill above a beach in Louannec, part of the larger municipality of Perros-Guirec (Perroz Gireg in Breton).

The tide outside our back door was a magical, organic part of our Louannec days, and we found ourselves using its movements like a natural metronome. As it ebbed and flowed, we waded, walked, wandered, swam, sat and dreamed according to whether the water was full in, moving out toward the open sea, gone a mile or more from the shore, or on its way back toward us. The tide's rhythm guided our own and shaped our daily routines.

Each morning, Dana would skip down to the bay with a plastic orange bucket and a spatula she took from a kitchen drawer and collect the dead crabs exposed by the water's dawn retreat. She arranged the most colorful and interesting of the empty shells, picked clean of their meat by seagulls, in a line on a garden table that sat outside the kitchen window. Each morning, the line grew longer.

After we returned from the neighborhood boulangerie with our day's supply of soft, warm, luscious-smelling baguettes, she'd open the kitchen window and wave a baguette baton at the crabs, leading them in an imaginary march.