Pillars of Sand

February 12, 2011
Once upon a time, there was a beach. It was bright and sandy and the sun shone on it all day. On this beach there was a crab. It was small and unimportant. It crawled back and forth on the beach and it looked at the waves far away. When it saw the waves, it felt afraid, and it didn’t like this. It looked at the waves so far away and it had an idea. It knew of a way it could avoid the waves and not be afraid anymore.

So the crab began to scuttle faster because it had a purpose. It crawled across the beach and pushed the sand into a big lump. It gathered more and more sand on the bright beach. It made a huge pile of it. It climbed on this pile and looked at the sea. It knew the pile was not tall enough and it was scared again. It sat on the pile and thought for a very long time. And still the waves grew closer.

The days past by and the crab worked. It gathered sand and more sand and slowly built it into a massive mound, a huge pile. One day, it stopped and looked at the sand. A little voice inside its head said, this is not enough. It needs to be bigger, fancier, a beautiful castle. And so the crab returned to work. It carved the sand with its little crooked claws. It carved the sand into big walls and huge archways and in the center of the castle it carved a tall, tall tower of sand. It cut little windows into the sides and inside the tower was a long curving stairway that reached all the way to the top. And at the top of the tower the crab looked out at the sea and saw how great and vast it was. And the crab ran back and forth on the top of the tower, waving its claws above its head and crying out angrily. It had to be bigger, the crab thought. It scuttled down the stairs and the waves grew closer.

All day and all night the crab worked. It took no rest even though it was tired. Every day the castle of sand grew bigger and stronger and taller. It stood very tall over the tiny beach. And the crab looked at it and felt proud. Until he climbed the tower one night. He looked out and saw the waves were bigger and more frightening than even. He felt fear once again and stared up at the sky in anger. And then he saw it. And he thought to himself, what if I built this tower to reach the sky? And his head was filled with dreams of walking in the stars and seeing the world below him. He dreamed of looking down from the sky and seeing the waves below him, so small while he was so large. He thought these things and he felt glad and hopeful.

So the crab worked and the years went by. And each day the waves crept closer. From the top of the tower he watched them and from the shores of the beach he watched them. He was scared, but he was hopeful too. And every night he would look at the sky and tell himself how close it was. But deep inside, he was still scared of the waves and he felt cold and empty inside, even though he told himself the tower was taller every day. And still the waves came on.

And then they were there. The crab stood on the top of his tower and looked out at the sea. For the first time, he saw its endless majesty and its hidden dreams. He saw a thousand things in its dark and lonely waves and he realized that it was without compassion, without hope, devoid of any tattered shred of mercy. And the crab felt nothing but hopelessness and despair. And the sea, in all its dark clothes stood over his pitiful castle of sand and mocked it. And the crab looked at the sky which had once seemed so close and knew how far away it had really been. The sea looked up too and then back down and it laughed, because it knew what the tiny crab had desired and it knew the futility of its hopes.
The sea rose up to its full height and raced forward. And the crab leapt up and reached, longingly and with desperation for the sky. His claws reached for it and he struggled to hold it in his grasp but the stars slipped through his fingers and fell among the sea. And he fell even as his castle crumbled and the sea washed away the crab’s pillars of sand.
And the next morning, the sun rose on the sandy bright beach and the sky gazed down. There was no trace of the castle, no trace of the crab. There was nothing on the beach, not a shrine, not a last pillar of sand, not a single marker. And far away the sea waited, unfathomable and deep. And the waves began to grow close once more.

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