We decided that we would give Sanibel Island a rest for a day. Besides, we’d save $6.00 for not taking the Causeway Bridge. No, it was time we crossed another bridge (free) from Fort Myers to Fort Myers Beach. When we did, we found ourselves in another world. This wasn’t Wal-Mart country. This was the Gulf Coast version of Wildwood, New Jersey. The young and the restless were here–strolling along the boulevard and taking up a blanket size spot on a very large beach. We drove slowly. We had to because of the frequent pedestrian crossings and road construction barriers.
If I wanted a burger of any kind or price, this was the place. If I wanted a Marguerita, this was ground zero. I was amazed at the number of open-air bars and vacation rentals.
I noticed that the Periwinkle Motel had hourly rates. I wondered why someone would want to do that. Aren’t motels for sleeping and resting from the rigors of long road trips? I’m still thinking about this…
Slowly I drove, inch by inch, yard by yard. This place was the stuff of my beach dreams that I forged in life. Then we saw the sign: Sand Sculpture Competition, we simply had to check this out. It didn’t come as a total surprise to me that this event was happening. I had seen a brief article about it in the local newspaper, the one I read while I enjoy my iced coffee at the Java Cafe in the Outlet Mall.
When I was a child, we used to go family camping in the Adirondacks of New York State. Some summers we would spend a week or two at Golden Beach State Campground on Raquette Lake. Now, I’m no stranger to building sand castles. I did it all the time. What kind of competition could this be, here in Florida? How hard can it be? All I ever needed was a Tupperware container, a little bucket and a Dixie cup. I could build Camelot, Buckingham Palace or the Kremlin with those simple childs tools.
After no small amount of difficulty, we found a parking place. It was at the Wyndham Hotel. They sponsored the contest and it was their sand that was going to be used in making the little castles. (It would require us to patronize the hotel bar after the beach, but we could manage that.)
As we approached the entry gate, a woman who was heading to the parking lot slipped Mariam a paper-like bracelet and said: “Here, save yourself $5.00.” We accepted the freebie from her. I decided I would struggle with the ethics and morality of this later. I tried to calculate the number of years in Purgatory I would get for stiffing the Competition for five bucks. Mariam doesn’t believe in Purgatory, so this whole thing would fall on me.
Later, I thought. I’ll deal with this later. I paid $5.00 for my bracelet and entered through the little tent-like entrance.
It had rained heavily during the night and there were large wet patches and pools in the sand. I was a little put off by this. I didn’t come to the beach to get my feet wet! Then, I looked around me. Wait a minute. These weren’t sand castles at all. This was the stuff of high art and imaginative skill that made my head spin. I worried about the warnings I was getting on my iPhone about the approaching limit to my storage. I wanted to take a hundred pictures. Not that there were a hundred sculptures here, but I wanted to capture the objects on all sides.
And, here is where my brain began to overload. I’ve taken a few art classes when I lived in New York City, but it was all 2-D, like water colors and chalk sketching. This stuff was all 3-D and it was astounding.
I didn’t know what to photograph. I was split between worrying about my iPhone storage and how they got the sand to stay put. Everything I built on beaches as a child always collapsed. Yet, these figures defied gravity.
Walking through this display was both amazing and enjoyable. At the same time, I thought about when the day would come when rain or wind or people would cause these pieces of art to crumble–and turn into a beach again. What is the lifetime of a sand figure? I didn’t know, but I did know it was finite.
Someday, I might walk along the beach behind the Wyndham Hotel and find no trace of the dragon or the faces.
I stood looking at one that depicted a man being drawn into a gear wheel. He seemed to be clutching a mound of something that was labelled SAND.
For some reason, I felt connected to him. I think I understand what the artist was trying to say. That’s more than I can do with a canvas by Picasso.
We drove back along Estero Boulevard. We passed the bars and burger shacks. There were a few tattoo parlors. I made a mental note about the location of one. I think I’ll come back here and get a Henna tat. After all, it washes away in a few weeks.
It’s not like it’s permanent or anything.
[Photo credits are mine. Also, the Periwinkle Motel does not have hourly rates. I don’t want that on my conscience too.]