There is always a day when you catch yourself somewhere you did not expect to be, such a day was walking on a beach as if all the time of every world and life was available. The sand stretched ahead as if too had nowhere to go but everywhere to be, tantalizing both the sky and the sea to reach out and lie upon the surface which tried to be solid yet succumbed to every breeze and drop of water. In the great flat expanse of sea and sky and sand was not a thing, and object more an event that stood out from this two dimensional tapestry in front, forcing it into a three dimensional invitation like some icon hanging in a sacred sanctuary, enticing the viewer to step in and be part of the mystery. A boy was building a sandcastle as if this engineering was to hold the entire land, sea and sky scape together.
From afar the intricacy and detail of this castle of sand brought a wonder to the mind and a warm smile to the heart. The boy lost in his toil was oblivious to being observed or that his work mattered to anyone but his eye, his hands and some dream in his soul. Handful of wet sand upon handful of wet sand, towers and turrets rising from the unresisting beach. Here a moat, here a wall, here a rampart, here a keep, here a battlement and here a spire that defied gravity. Out of what at first was just sand, but no, was now living cells, this boy was breathing a dream into life before, well there were no onlookers, no approvers, indeed the only observer was lost in time and was a part of the event than a viewer of some art in a gallery. Here in this aloneness, this remoteness, all time stood still, all thought dispersed into that wanting sky; each grain of sand older than any imagination could hold, birthed in some primal fire, defiant as a long lost mountain, seduced by some forgotten ocean, here at the hands of a child, resting on another grain and another seemingly for no purpose save the wonder of a dream.
Maybe it was some distant cry of a forlorn sea bird, a sharp breeze against a wave or the jarring of an adult’s brain that set the wheels of time moving once more.
The azure sky had darkened almost imperceptibly, yet the shadows of those sandy towers had grown just a breath darker. That flat lazy sea had quickened her pace and was now reaching across the beach in answer to that initial invitation. Standing now quite close to this edifice of dreaming, the danger of it succumbing to the rising tide had now become part of this event. Before any words could be spoken, the boy with a mere casual glance at the oncoming ocean, scoops out a ditch between the castle and the snickering waves. And then continues to manufacture more towers and more spires. In his heart he knows that this ditch will save his dream.
Watching the ditch fill a little more with each wave knowing that in no way can this small excavation save the castle from the onslaught of the great and inevitable tide, tears well up at the inability to confirm the boy’s certainty that this small ditch will perform the miracle that for him is just how the world should be.
Unperplexed and seemingly unconcerned, the boy all of a sudden stood upright and with a cursory surveillance of his work, places a small stick with a pennant of seweed between the castle and the sea, smiled, turned and walked away into the coming evening.
There seemed little else to do, but walk away to that other world with its other needs and necessities always prevalent on the edge of dreams.
Throughout the night, images of the sea with each touch of a wave, demolishing and crumbling that simple beauty that had taken so much heart to build. As the dawn reached into the world, there seemed only one course of action but to rush to that beach. Still hardly awake, still not yet engaged with whatever this day would bring a speedy path along the edge of water and sand to see, to hope to wish, who could tell with such a dream. Yet there was a hope somewhere, as with Harry Belafonte singing of the miraculous appearance of those ‘scarlet ribbons for her hair’; a gift from some unknown god or spirit, that the sandcastle would have stood whilst a raging tide held at bay by that fragile flag of seaweed, had washed around and not over.
Arriving at that place brought tears of a long lost childhood of dashed expectation, not even a soft mound to say that such a monument to childhood dreams ever stood, just the sea washed sand.
That despair of the wanting child breaks hearts and floods the world with tears, standing hopes dashed. How could any hope be left, how could any next step be taken, why does the world not stop for a child’s dreams? And yet still holding to the sand is that defiant seaweed flag.
Without cause a single childish giggle deafened the sighs of the man lost in history and turning there once again is that boy kneeling in the sand, scooping and patting, and at his hands another castle begins to form from the sea soaked beach. The seaweed flag is retrieved and the man kneels in the sand beside the boy and together with only the purpose of the moments dream put sand to sand to build another dream.
Looking into the eyes of this child is looking into a prayer long forgotten and watching his hands dance in a sacred ritual once the daily focus of every human; to be in the dream of the moment without losing it to some future imagining.
Looking up to see the edge of water, sand and sky, as far as any eyes could hope to see, castles of sand, castles of dreams rise up at the hands of countless children immersed in the joy of the dream that weaves this moment.
And tomorrow, and tomorrow, proudly brandishing the heraldic seaweed flag, those countless children will build dreams, whilst doubting adults look on.
Along the shores of childhood and adulthood, how many sandcastles got washed away, and in every moment how many hearts come back and build them up again?
Rev John-Luke Edwards