A Stroll On Estero: Encountering Sand Sculptures One Grain At A Time

Sand2

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.

Sand1

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.

Sand3

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.

CastleArch

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.

GearsInSand

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.]

My One And Only Superstition

Calendar

I taught science for over thirty years.  I have learned to separate fact from belief, real from unreal and rational thinking from irrational concepts.

There is a world of superstition out there.  It is a danger to society to rely on unproven ideas.  This is why many people burned many women (and men) as witches for many centuries.  I once dated someone who would lick her finger and make a smudgy X on my windshield every time a black cat would cross the road in front of us.  She said it was for good luck.  It was lucky for me that I had a tissue to clean the many X’s from my window, following an afternoon drive.

Really?

Many people won’t walk under a ladder, or will throw salt over their shoulder if they broke a mirror.  Too many people think that something really weird is going to happen on any Friday the 13th.  Great movie, but let’s get real!  It’s just a date on a calendar.

However, some superstitions are interesting and not totally without merit.  I’d whistle every time I passed a cemetery but the problem is, I can’t whistle like I used to do when I was a kid.  So I don’t and nothing has happened to me in the meantime.  It’s not totally surprising since it is common to fear graveyards.  In fact, I rather like them.  I find them interesting places to discover local history and contemplate life.

I believe I made my point.  Superstitions are a little nutty.

Except…

I am ready to admit to my readers that I suffer from the burden of superstition on a daily basis.  It’s just one misplaced belief.  Only one, but it can ruin my whole day.

I put myself in your hands by telling you this.  If any of my former students finds out about this, I could lose my standing in their memory.

You see, I cannot bring myself to mark off a day on the calendar until it’s precisely midnight.

It sounds goofy to you, but I just can’t bring my Sharpie to the wall calendar and proudly make an X until the clock strikes 12:01 am.  But that puts me into an altogether new dilemma.  Which clock should I trust?

I am well aware that Einstein told us that time is relative.  Time, some mystics may say, is an illusion.  What time it is, is a human construct.  If I lived in a deep cave somewhere in France, time would really have no meaning to me.  There would be no diurnal cycle to tell me when the sun rises and sets.  But, I don’t live in a cave in France.  I live at Rainbow Lake, NY…and that makes me need to know what time it is.

WallClock

Do I trust my wall clock in the kitchen?  Of course not.  I have to change it twice a year and I can never be sure exactly where to set the minute hand.  The clock on the oven is a possibility, but we have occasional power failures and we have to reset the timer.  So, that leaves the cable box.

CableClock

Now, I do not know where Time Warner (or Verizon) gets their time feed, but is it exact?  I have no way of knowing.

OvenClock

I had another idea.  Check my iPad time or maybe my iPhone time or even my laptop time, but isn’t that all feed by Verizon?  I didn’t know where to turn.  Then a really odd thought came to me.  Maybe, just maybe, all this time was being fed to me from Amazon?  And, all this time, I didn’t know.  They sell everything, don’t they?

So, I just have to learn to depend on one clock and take it on faith that it is correct…to the second…before I can approach my wall calendar to make my X.

Sometimes, I wear a wrist watch and a belt watch that hangs from a loop on my jeans.  My son, Brian, thinks that is a crazy thing to do.  I think he is thinking of an ancient Zen saying: A man who wears two watches never knows what time it is.  I see it differently.  A man who wears two watches has choices.

But, one choice I don’t have is when the Sharpie traces an X on the calendar.  I have to wait until the time is right.  But now I have a clear graphic that reminds me of how fast time is flying.

That’s another story…for a different time and another day.

GraveClock

 

 

 

I Am Ice

I was one of the uncountable snow flakes that fell that day.  Time was the same, it snowed, it rained, drizzle fell, fog burned off and the sunshine broke through the clouds.  Before I fell to earth I had my last glimpse of the sun.  Then all darkened with clouds and more snow.
The sun became a memory.
Miles away, the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast were emerging from a dark past and beginning to see wood, gold, bark, ivory and sea shells as forms of art.  Ancient mythic images, older than time began to take on a form…meaningful to the soul of these people.
I was a single snow flake with a crystal form all my own.  There was never another like me, then or even now.  I did not feel loneliness; within minutes, I was covered with others that were similar to me but never entirely the same as me.  Deeper I sank. More snow fell on me. Deeper and deeper I was buried in my white tomb.
I long ceased to see the sun, sky, clouds and moon.  The wind ceased it’s motion for me.  It was all darkness and stillness; total aloneness among zillions like me.  Far above me, lone hunters slushed the snows.  An occasional mountain climber.  Once, and I could feel his soul, a lonely man with a troubled mind, went over me looking for his place to find his God.  He went to a nearby mountain and, crouched against the rain and wind, waited for his God to come and take him back home.
I was slowly losing the sense of what I was.  I was losing my “snowness” and ever so gradually becoming less of a tiny flake and more of a crystal.  The process was slow.  I united with others like me and we morphed into true glacial ice.
All this was not totally quiet.  There were distant moans and shrieks as the glacial ice began to move, layer over layer, downward…toward any depth that the terrain allowed.
After many, many years, I, now a part of a vast collection of other crystals, began to see the light above me.  The youthful summer snows were melting away and we, now the grand old parts of the glacier were visible.  I could now hear and feel the piercing of the crampons of glacial researchers as they made their way over my surface.  Nearby, an errant solo mountaineer made a slight misstep and slid into a giant crack in my surface.  He cried out.  He died quickly.  But I can still hear the echoes of his pain throughout the expanse of ice.
One day, a teenage researcher chopped me free from the bed I lived on.  With the point of his ice axe he isolated my as a single crystal.  He took me between his fingers and held me up to the sun.  I saw the sun again.  It was as I remembered it.  I proudly reflected and refracted the spectrum and allowed the rays to spread like starlight.  He turned me over in his hands several times before tossing me away.
Very soon I will melt away and join the icy flow down glacier to the sea.  I’ll be gone for a very long time, probably.
But I’ll be back.

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