A while ago my friends and I drove down to the Gulf of Mexico again. We had been there only two weeks before, but the timing was perfect and the weather was supposed to be wonderful. Turned out the timing was great, the weather a little less than perfect, but we still had a blast! When you take into consideration how wonderful going to the beach in and of itself is you realize a little less than ideal weather isn’t a problem.
We drove to the coast through a slew of lightning storms. Never in my life have I seen so much lightning. It would light up the entire sky with constant flashes. It was as though we were a tiny bug on the floor of a giant dance hall with strobe lights flashing. I was grateful to not be driving because I was able to watch the lightning the whole time. When we arrived at the beach our excitement was high, never mind it was past midnight.
We parked the car, carried everything up to the condo, then in an instant we were in our swimsuits racing out to the beach. It was dark, warm, and tempestuous. As we neared the beach a cool wind rushed past us cooling the hot stuffy air, its comings and goings as frequent as the pounding of the surf. A pounding which was louder than I had ever heard in all my experiences at the beach. As we raced to the water we became children again, running, laughing, screaming, and jumping with pure excitement and energy. We rushed towards the water in the dark when the terrain underfoot suddenly dropped off at a mini sandbar higher up the beach than normal. I was fortunate to stay on my feet only to hear a dull thump behind me. I made it across the sandbar, my friend behind me not so much. I turned around to see them laughing hysterically as they pulled themselves up from a flat fall. We all laughed together which ignited our excitement like gasoline on a burning fire!
As we laughed together and turned toward the pounding surf lightning flashed out over the ocean lighting the area briefly, a sight which I had never seen before, and will be hard pressed to forget. Some things you can try to capture in a photograph, others you can only describe. This was one of those moments I can only describe. The pressure of the wind and waves, the flashes of light, the rushing of the water, these are things I couldn’t have captured that night, but my mind has frozen them in my memory. We ended up playing in the rushing waves only for a little while. It quickly became apparent we could be washed out to sea very easily with the amount of undertow we were feeling. We ended the night by watching the waves crash into each other as the winds calmed down and the lightning moved into the distance. It was going to be a great weekend.
The next morning we went to the beach expecting a calm after the storm. It was calmer, but a strong wind blew across the beach. I had never experienced this before but quickly figured out a strong wind like this will pick up the fine sand and blast it across your shins and feet creating a feeling of sandpaper being rubbed against your legs. Now I understand where the idea for sand paper came. I will say my legs were much smoother after being exposed to the sand blasting all day.
Determined not to let the weather stop us from having a great day at the beach we pitched our camp with towels forming a layer of protection against the blowing sand. I was in the water more than out of it. The waves were bigger than normal which made it all that much better for me. I couldn’t have asked for better waves. For some reason I love the feeling of being pushed around by the massive amounts of water. Though if it be known there were several moments when I was pushed around too much. It made me uncomfortable and I would leave, only to return to the water after a brief respite to catch my breath.
When we came back out after lunch, the wind was still blowing, lifting little ghost trails of sand rushing by only inches above the beach. Still determined to enjoy out day we proceeded to build a sand castle. This was the like of which I had never seen before. It is called a “Drip Castle.” Extremely simple to make, and very fun. You take water in a bucket and put sand in there, then grab the sand and let it drip out of your hand. You guide the drops and form a castle out of wet sand. It is actually very strong and can create some awesome formations.
This water and sand idea inspired us to create a sand volcano. We built a large mound of sand with a hole in the top and placed large amounts of water inside it wondering if it would soak through and leak out the bottom of the mound, or if it would flow over. We quickly discovered it would flow over when too much water was placed inside. When too little was placed inside it would just absorb it, showing no outward effect of the amounts of water placed inside it.
As we built the sand castle we were being closely observed by a young boy who was with his family. We all looked at each other and thought to ourselves, “When we were that age and saw a sandcastle, what would we do? Jump on it.” So we turned to the boy and offered our sandcastle for him to destroy. He didn’t believe us at first, but once he was keen to the idea it didn’t take him long to transform into Godzilla.
After Godzilla had left the castle decimated my friends decided they wanted to try to take a nap in the blustering wind. I was tired from swimming all morning, but something in me yearned to let the boy inside me free. I had heard you could dig down in the sand, and if you dug far enough, you could find the water table. I was determined to do that. In addition I had seen people escaping the wind by digging trenches in the sand, and I thought once I was done with digging I could use it as an escape. So putting on my sunglasses against the wind I grabbed our small yellow plastic shovel and went to work on digging down. Quickly I discovered the shovel we had brought was cracked and less than perfectly functional, but I didn’t let that stop me. I kept working.
I started behind the mound we had already made because it offered a little wind block and began to dig. I dug, scooped, molded, pressed, grunted, bent, stooped, and stretched as I began to dig my hole. It wasn’t long until I discovered water in the bottom of my hole. I couldn’t believe it, I was only about 2.5-3 feet down and I was getting water. Quickly I began to widen my hole, and form a better working area. The mound which had started was turning into a massive wall of wet sand as I worked to dig deeper and wider. My friends came over to see what I had been working on so long and were surprised to see me standing in water a good 25 feet away form the beach.
My hole was amazing! Then I realized, not only was it amazing, but it was also a danger to others around the beach. I wasn’t going to be there all day, so someone could fall into it, and it was deep enough they could break something. Quickly the boy in me screamed, “Don’t fill it in! You worked too much on it.” The adult in me replied, “Someone will get hurt.” Then the artist inside of me spoke up and said, “Look at all this sand around your hole. Why not use it to create a wall big enough people will know something is inside of it.” Brilliant!
I went to work. I don’t know how long I worked on this thing, but it must have been over 3 hours of digging a hole, and building a wall around it. In the process of building the wall I realized I needed some stairs to get out of the hole, so I made some. The project proceeded to get bigger as time passed. Once I had a massive wall around the hole my friends came over and hid behind the wall to escape the rushing wind. The wall was easily big enough for them to hide behind.
The looks I got as people walked by were a mix of jealousy, confusion, admiration, amazement, wonder, nostalgia, and laughter. Many people stopped and asked how long I had been working, and I couldn’t have said, but I was still full of energy and ambition. Once the wall of safety was up I realized something. It was ugly. So I proceeded with the beautification process. We had two tools which Turned out to be all I needed. I built a real sand wall/fortification. The fortification was complete with guard towers in the front, and high walls for archers to hide in. It even had a path leading up to the massive walls. The only thing it was missing was a gate and a moat. I had no clue how to create a gate, and was too tired to create the moat so the end result was a massive wall.
I have never created anything of this size or kind. It was a spur of the moment idea, and it was a success. After it was complete many people stopped by to take pictures inside of it. They thought it was the coolest thing… and so did I. As I looked at the size I pictured myself tiny, and I must admit the boy in me could only imagine what this place must have been to the civilization which populated it. A sanctuary for villagers to travel to, a place of refuge from the heat of battle, a sacred site of healing waters, a ruin of a once proud kingdom, or maybe the imagination of a young boy made real by an impulse.