Castles Built of Sand

That morning the crystal clear water of Lake Michigan

Stopped my heart for a split second

As I submerged myself into its icy embrace

I could’ve had a drink, had I chosen.


I emerged

Crystalline drops racing from skin to sand

And descended on the damp beach

Where skyscraper shadows

Colored the ground giving way

To me


Beside me

A family of four

Making castles built of sand


From the mouth of the 6 year-old boy:

Can we build the actual castle yet?

Be patient

His mother said.

We need to focus on the moat first.


I wanted to ask his mother

If she knew that there are ten times more

Stars in the night sky

Than grains of sand

Of the world’s deserts and beaches


Or if

Her request for patience

Meant putting off

Building what we’re made of

In favor of constructing that

Which is meant

To keep others at bay


Why do we teach our children

To build barriers instead of bridges

Moats instead of canals

All to protect

The things we think we have made


Building our defense

By taming the very experiences

That take our breath away


The boy put aside the shells

That had been poised in his hand to build

For now, his castle would remain sand


I wanted to ask the boy

If he knew that sand was made from rocks

And that rocks are hard

Or that

Shells are a part of the creature’s body that they protect


And that when these creatures die

The fragile

The breakable

Is what remains

It is

What is left behind

It is

What is picked up and admired

Not the sand.


How do we hurt so much

That we teach our children

That protection


Taking what makes our heart stop for a split second

Placing it into buckets

And pouring its contents in such a way

That the stars in the sky

No longer control its tide


Don’t we know

That water in a moat

Knows not the magic of a current

Guided by the moon and the stars?

That measuring the water

Does not take away the danger

Of drowning?


The mother turned away

The boy began to fill his moat

With ice-cold water from Lake Michigan

He poured too much.

And his half-built castle

Gave way to a spineless crumble.


The unused shells sat at his feet

His fragility,

He was told

Unnecessary to withstand.


Didn’t his mother also know

That too much water

Even when in buckets

Will erode

A castle only built of sand?


Yes, that water is cold.

Yes, it takes guts to dive

When someone looks at my castle

The first thing I want to say is

You know,

This isn’t my best work.

Knowing very well that it is.


I wonder how many times

I’ve told myself to be patient

That I’d build myself up

That I’d add some shells

Just as soon as I dug my moat


Don’t I know

That the moon controls the tide?

That same moon

That sits among stars

That outnumber the sand I am made of

That outnumber

What I am able to count?


It isn’t easy

To find my own shovel

It isn’t easy

To re-dig my moat

It isn’t easy

To straighten it back out to sea


So that

Water flows from

And seashells can anchor

The base of a castle

That has always been built

Of sand.


Image courtesy of Andrew Boxall, Flickr Creative Commons


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