Sand Castles

Have you ever made a sand castle at evening time? When the wind roils the sea and draws gloom from its shadows? And soon the tide comes in and takes what you have built? Leaves only the sand? Always with the sand. It is the grain of the inevitable. The fragile pendant of entropy. Both the seed and the fruit of nothingness, to which everything returns.

That’s what became of us, didn’t it?

Did you know that there is a sick, terrified child inside me. There is a look in her eye. It is one of fear. She trembles. She shakes. She will not look me in the eye. She will not look at me at all. Don’t come any closer, she says. I won’t let go. It’s for your best, I say. She doesn’t believe me. She squeezes harder. She squeezes until her cheeks turn green. And her knuckles turn bloody and white. She refuses to give up what she loves. And yet she is terrified of it being taken away. While she clings to it, that which she loves dies. And without it, she too would perish. Her life. Her very identity depends on it.

But it does die. And so does she. And the fire turns to smoldering ash and embers. The fire turns back to sand. And isn’t sand so hard to get rid of?

It finds its way into your shoes, your crevices, your hard to reach places. It stays there for a long time without you knowing until your foot gets rubbed the wrong way and you become starkly aware of what happens when you ignore the fact of impermanence; when you ignore how everything changes; how nothing stays the same; how even memories are corrupted; how everything truly is lost; how that which we hold sacred starts to matter very little to others who once held it in the same repute; how slowly but surely we lose ourselves to the past and whatever it comes to mean; while in the present, moments grow stale and pathetic, wan and tight-lipped in the moonlight; thin, frail, and meaningless as many things are wont to do.

Loss casts a long shadow.

Loss comes looking for you when you’re out drinking with your buddies and somehow you manage to have one too many. It sneaks up on you while you’re peeing in the alley, or maybe you’re smoking a spliff. Then things really start to spin. The centrifuge in your puny human brain begins to dance wildly. It begins to pull forgotten strands from the bramble of your unconscious for you to unwind in front of everyone. You come back inside teary eyed without a sure reason why. And your friends go to greet you with consolation. They put a hand on your back and say it’s okay whatever it is it’s okay.  

But it’s not okay. Loss is not okay. Sure, it is a fact of life. But it is not okay. It is the grindstone against which we are made new, our wits sharp, our attachments smooth and easy to release. Loss is the pulp of our involuntary transfiguration.

You sit in a pasture of dead grass, grown golden in the winter sun, reading books, praying, praying, praying silently, ever so still, waiting, waiting, waiting, for something to happen. Anything. But nothing does. Nothing happens at all.

How many minutes does it take for transcendence to strike you while sitting in a field? The answer? Time does not care for transcendence; and transcendence does not care for time. One drags on, endlessly it seems; the other remains hidden, endlessly it seems. That is the sad paradox of life. The inescapable truth. Sand castles in the tide.


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