Sand is a miraculous substance, the product
of many elements sweeping through and transforming one another.
It begins with solid rock, the earth element. But rock is worn
down by wind and water, until the result participates in all three
natures. Sand is still made of tiny stones, but rendered airy
and fluid. You can pour sand from one hand to the other. It flies
through the air, to the dismay of those who end up with grit in
their eyes. The ripples of a sand dune echo the waves that ripple
the ocean. Somehow it seems correct for beaches to be made of
sand, as if the fluidity of the sea has touched the land, turning
it into something soft and yielding, liquid between our toes.
On a hot day, the beach-sand even picks up the fiery warmth of
the sun. Earth, air, water fire -- the classic four elements of
the ancient Greeks are all wrapped together in sand.
No wonder children can play for hours in it. Sand can be wetted down and paradoxically becoming more solid from the addition of water built into medieval-style castles. But these castles (historically massive and forbidding) in their sand-form are delightfully fragile. A child can kick them over with ease. What power! Or you can pour sand like liquid into a bucket. Compact it well enough and you dump out a solid form maybe. Just to dig our hands into the sand feels special. It is abrasive (as in sandpaper), yet soft. Uniform beige, yet with glittery highlights. Flowing, yet granular. It's as if our skin, itself the meeting point of earth, air, body-heat, and blood-water, has found its natural kin.
Something in our soul also resonates with sand. We tend to attribute the peace we feel at a pristine beach to the sound and sights of the ocean. True, but let's not neglect the sand. It invites us to grow smooth and relaxed. It awakens our sensuous, childlike nature. How can we engage in anything too serious on a beach? (Volleyball works, but not an important board meeting.) How can we be rigid and inflexible? Sand invites us to become like itself -- soft, flowing, responsive to even the gentle breezes that surround us.
It takes many years to turn a rock into sand. It can take as long to turn a stony person into a sandy one. Sometimes an unsolvable situation just keeps working away at us, wearing down our resistance. Finally, we soften and yield. We may see this sand-like character in the face of an elder, weathered by the changes of a lifetime. Her wrinkled face somehow suggests a soul that has grown smoother with the years. Her arms flow around a grandchild like sand. The child can play gently, as he might in a sandbox, without pressures of time and duty. When death finally arrives, this elder is ready to flow into the coffin like sand into a bucket. Life has worn her down, true, but in the process turned her into something finer. She rests like sand along the shore of the ocean we call eternity.
Think about a troublesome situation in your life that has you a bit stymied. Are there any ways you are behaving in a stony fashion: rigid and inflexibly? What might it mean to become more "sandy" within the situation loose and flowing? (See if you any new strategies come to mind for approaching things differently.)