• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 12
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On The Seashore

My grandmother dug her hand into the beach, all the way up to her wrist. She took out the fistful she'd chosen and as the grains spilled out from the gaps between her arthritic fingers, the sand gushing back to itself, she said, "You know what sand is? Sand is all the Roman tiles that have been broken. It's the priceless tiles you'd find in museums if they were whole. It's all the imperfect ones, the mistakes and the out-of-fashion ones, the tiles that didn't match a colour scheme, tiles that were thrown aside and found themselves accumulating in pottery piles, grinding each other into these tiny flecks. It's the perfect ones too. It's the tiles lost in fires and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Sand is all the tall Grecian urns and the statues of philosophers we've forgotten, the statues that fell overboard from great ships when the seas were stormy. It's the great ships themselves. It's the anchors.

"It's all the windows that once let sunlight into humble abodes and it's the stained glass ones from holy cathedrals, powdered down, sharp shards rubbing against each other, cutting the cutting edges away. It's the bricks of the cathedrals, oh yes, and all the mighty rocks that huddled in circles to reveal the seasons, and all the bones of the fish it is. Sand is all the bones of the fish and the shells as well of course. The shells that sit on the beach today will be ground down into sand one day. It's all the soft things, that without bone, that which is found as fossils inside the rock that's been ground. It's our ancestors, it's Napoleon and Nelson, my own grandmother, all your great-great-greats brought to the surface from their resting places by the oceans, skeletons grinding into these little grains of sand. All and everything there ever was, shoved into the sunlight again by oceans willing us to see it. Do you see it?" she said. "Scoop it up into your plastic bucket and play with the stuff! It's irreverent to wear reverence like a badge.


On The Seashore

"All the reverence is in play. Make badly built sandcastles. Stick shells not yet sand on the outside, like irregular windows, and place a trail of shells leading up crookedly to the portcullis. Get seaweed that is not yet sand and put it on the top like you mean it to be something. Or find a lollipop stick and call it a flag even though it's not a flag. Play with sand and make it live again."

My grandmother's hand fell open and empty, then she said, "And of course sand is time." She brushed her hands clean and she ooshed herself up onto her feet. She said something about her knees, and disappeared, into a deckchair somewhere.

Her half-remembered words live deep inside as intangible particles and I pass them on to you now as a badly built sandcastle made from shifting fragments of all that's gone before.