It was an impromptu game, inspired by a piece of driftwood that was tossed on the beach by the rising tides. Using the ragged edge of the stick, I etched four numbers into the sand, as close to the water’s edge as possible. My goal? To capture images of the vanishing year before the churn washed it away.
Again and again, I played tag with the waves. running backward with my camera aimed low, until my clothes were soaked and my storage card was nearly full.
Ho Ho Ho! It wasn’t until much later, when I finally downloaded the images, that I realized I’d been etching the wrong year into the sand all along!
In recounting this story later, I wonder if this tourist might have something to say about us “crazy locals.”
But this is my story, and in this retelling, the main characters are the wonderfully creative kids from Arizona that I’d met a bit earlier in the day. When last I saw this pair, they were packing wet sand around the edges of a deep hole they’d dug—a fortress against the incoming tides.
When I headed back to my car, they flagged me down. The little girl sat back on her heels so I could admire their handiwork. They’d created for themselves a Sisyphean task, of course, but that wasn’t for me to judge.
I lavished praise on their creative efforts. “Would you like this stick?” I asked. “You never know…it might come in handy.”
By then, the little boy had returned to the job at hand: scooping and packing sand, and repositioning his body when the waves inched close enough to threaten his wall. “Nah, I’m good.”
The little girl hesitated.
I stretched the stick across my open palms—a magic wand now, drenched in seawater and sprinkled with glittery sand. “How about you?” I asked. “You could write your wishes in the sand and then watch the waves carry them away.”
Her face brightened, lit from within by the dreams she envisioned in her mind’s eye. “Ah,” she said, “I wondered what you were doing.” She scrambled to her feet, brushed the sand off her knees, and reached for the driftwood.
Her eyes sparkled. My heart glowed.
As I headed back to my car, she strode confidently to the ocean’s edge, like a newly crowned monarch with a scepter.
I scrambled over the sand berms, and when I eventually reached the boardwalk, I glanced back at my new friends one last time. The little boy was still hard at work, frenetically digging and forever rebuilding. No time for rest or reflection. He was too busy fortifying his crumbling structure against the inevitable.
But the little girl…ahhh. She was wriggling her toes in the wet sand–a princess in her own realm, wholly immersed in the moment. Time and again, she etched her name into the sand. Time and again, she whispered her wishes into the salty air, and then invited the breezes to carry them out to sea.