Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Mirror, Mirror in the Sand

While walking along the shore, I happened upon a sand castle. It seemed to have been made with loving care. Intricate designs had been scalloped into its surface. Only the best sand had been used to make this castle. Little windows were carved in a couple of centimeters so that one might pretend to see inside. I planted myself a few feet away from the sandy manor, rolled onto my tail bone, wrapped my arms around my drawn-in legs, rested my chin on my knees and imagined sweeping ceilings lined with crown molding, marble pillars and intimate trinkets lining handmade shelves and cases. I dreamt of enormous ballrooms with brilliant chandeliers and private quarters with crackling fireplaces and cozy down comforters. Perhaps an octagonally-shaped library -- and one of those attached rolling ladders, the kind that every kid wants to play on and seldom can without getting in trouble, on each wall book-lined from floor-to-vaulted-ceiling. Except, perhaps, for the two walls made of three-quarters window kissing a cushioned cubby seat where one could curl up with whichever fruit of literature was picked from the surrounding grove of paper, glue and weathered bindings.

I couldn't image anyone leaving this beautiful place empty, alone, deserted. I wanted to crawl inside and find my own candle-lit nook or cranny where I could fall asleep with shadows dancing along the walls to the surrounding ocean's symphony. I got lost in that sand castle- roaming its endless halls and its varying floors, exploring its secret passages. I'd lost complete track of time and space, drifting into my own figmented Elysian Fields, not even noticing the tide rolling over my ankles, splashing my hips. Not until, that is, it broke violently through my castle walls, threw down its turrets and revealed the muddy muck inside. Startled, I shot up, my sopping clothes clinging uncomfortably, coolly now, to my clammy flesh. The tide had changed with the setting sun and with it, tumbled my fantasia. Distraught by my washed-up dream, I trudged on home.

The next day, however, I returned to that place. Instead of finding the expected ruins of my dreams, I found a child rebuilding that castle. I realized that it was not as murky as I thought, that although it was not made of marble and sonnets, it was constructed from countless, unique granules like any other sand sculpture. Yet, even knowing it was the same as others made it special, made it different. Knowing the simplicity of the design and the complexity of the grains clinging almost inexplicably together to create a shape of beauty. A shape which inspires fantasy and yet cries out for reality, for truth. A fortress, vulnerable to the phases of the moon, a hearty wind or the malice of the world-- yet rebuilt with love and care after every fall.

I think I treat people too much like fantasy sand castles-- I build them up in my mind from a safe distance and too often count them revoltingly lost with the cascading tide of revelation. Not often enough do I return for the chance to embrace the wonder and complexity in the simple truth of reality.