On the beach
, I observe people making sand castles
. Or, at least, in most instances, mounds of sand vaguely shaped like castles. Some builders are children
, some are adults, some children are guided or aided by adult hands (though it is an interesting fact that even small children, with no experience or instruction, will instinctively dig in the sand and attempt to pile up structures).
But as quickly as people erect these edifices, and sometimes much more quickly, nature
is eating away at them with its waves and its winds and its subtle shiftings of earth. A microcosmic illustration
of the fact that everything built by Man will, in enough time, be worn away and torn down by the elemental forces which temporarily tolerate our impositions upon their existence.
There is a sweet spot
for the building of sand castles. Close enough to the ocean to use the warm wet sand, grains bonded together by water molecules
, clumpy and able to stick and be packed in. But far enough to avoid the wrath of a wave, or even the softening, swamping effect which comes from the waters inundating the ground. And there is similarly a sweet spot for manmade construction in general, close enough to nature to afford relief from urbanity, and to provide to those fortunate enough sweeping views of untouched land. But insulated enough to prevent the encroachment of that very nature. Man has always had a love affair with the sea, with many of the most populated places adjoining it to some degree. And in time enough, even the seas themselves are reshaped by even deeper movements of land upon the Earth itself.
On the beach, I watch a frantic child scramble to overcome the error of building too close to the advancing water's edge, trying to pile higher and higher a structure while waves wash away at it more and more. Walls fall. Parapets shake precipitously, and disappear into rubble. The builder's efforts makes the thing a different sort of artwork altogether
, a moving, emerging, everchanging struggle against inevitability, no longer resembling a castle at all, so much as one creature fighting absorption by another. And so, we are reminded, are all the efforts of Man, all things built on this Earth. Every coat of paint, every replaced stone or shingle, every fallen parapet rebuilt, is a struggle against the inevitability of nature, and of time.