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Grains of Sand
Maine: frigid, rough, mountainous…and calm. The day we drive into the state, a new feeling overtakes my body. The salty delicious air seeps deep into my lungs causing a swell of pleasure and delight. I open my window so the air may sweep in off the cool surface of the Atlantic and take shelter in our small shell of a car.
As I look outside my window, I view the waves hurtling themselves towards the jagged and unforgiving rocks of the shore. A battle rages. The rocks fight with their sharp blades of granite. The waves pound with endurance, but never prevail.
I have taken these roads before. They are all pieces of my past. As a young child, the four-hour trip became a hidden exploration. I begged my parents to construct a tent out of my friend, ‘Blankie,’ by twisting it through the headboards, seats, handles, and windows of the car. As soon as we erected the tent, I went off into a world of my own. Hidden from the view of my parents, I imagined adventures through the deep pines of the forest, twigs cracking underneath my feet as I ran on endlessly. I went on adventures into the depths of the oceans, dancing with the seaweed as it swayed with the tide and swimming between schools of fish. I often imagined myself as the creature of myth, the mermaid. I longed to feel the cool tug of water pulling at my skin, the sleekness of my tail working its way through the harsh currents of Maine’s turbulent waters. These dreams became a distant memory as I grew. No longer were these trips so fascinating. They soon consisted of listening to popular music and dozing off into fields of endless darkness.
Finally, after the long trip, I arrive at my destination. My beach rests only inches from my fingertips. The short walk becomes endless torment as my feet take the strides towards my place of wonder, the minute piece of land covered in sand. My beach.
As I step onto its faulty and uneven slopes of sand, I fail to find balance. I sit down, untie the laces of my shoes, and release my feet from their prison, toes wiggling free. The sand then finds its way into the cracks and crevices of my feet as I begin my march from one end of the beach to the other, feet in the cool confines of the water’s edge and head bent low in search of gleaming gems, necklaces of silky pearls, and crowns of seaweed. The stench of sea salt and rotting seaweed presents itself in my nostrils. The brackish smell trickles down through my throat, leaving an acrid taste in my mouth.
This beach, though small, contains vast memories. Each grain of sand represents a part of my childhood days. The memory of running straight into the frigid waters develops in my mind. I was never frightened of the unknown; always desiring adventure. But, those days are long gone. No longer do I feel the urge to dive into the water full of seaweed, rock, and debris. I am less than enthusiastic to the idea. The temperature of the water is unwelcoming and bites at my skin if I dare to enter. Instead, I refuse my childhood delight. I seek pleasure walking along the edge, where water touches sand. Here, the water tickles my toes and lightens my spirit.
The next few steps I take are towards the relentless, bountiful hills of rock, my childhood playground. As I saunter along the sharp edges of imperturbable stone, I tramp through mounds of seaweed left waiting for the next tide.
I take to sitting on the boulder I once claimed as my fort. It still stands sturdy and level, ready for a battle when the waves arrive at high tide. In past years, the fort symbolized my office. I set to work finding the perfect rocks to resemble computer screens, cell phones, keyboards, and other technologies. My sister and friend, Lily, joined in the fun as well, each creating their own separate fortresses along the stony banks. Between us, we established a small village, fashioning shops of rocky treasures, using petite rocks as our currency. This game became a tradition. Each year we remade our village to resemble those of years past. As I sit on my fort, I yearn to go back in time to those days of imagination.
Suddenly, I espy the form of a young girl. Her small ghostly body fetches rocks and drags them back to settle among her office, her blues eyes wide with wonder and delight. Her curls of blond hair spew out of the neat ponytail her mom assembled that morning. Near her are the small bodies of her sister and friend, joining in to create their own fortresses of dreams. This girl becomes a distant memory. I am left alone. Time becomes a bandit, sneaking in and stealing the happy times of a person’s life.
My young self lies beneath the sand and deep into the depths of the water, her grave a burial site for a lost childhood. Her body absorbs into the sand, while her spirit drifts slowly across the water, cresting over the hills of waves, coasting through barges and grounded boats, wafting away. In her place arrives a passionate and gentle young woman. Her cheek bones stand rounded and her lips, small and fair. The once vibrant white-blonde hair has turned a few shades darker, dimming to a nearly murky blonde. She is still here in spirit, but her body and personality have changed.
Reality strikes me like a bolt of lighting. I still see the fun in make-believe, but fail to find enjoyment when no one else participates. I stand from my perch and stroll away, gazing out into the horizon as I go. A young ethereal girl graces my fort where I just stood. Her blond hair sways as the wind brushes her face. She stands staring straight at me. She lifts up her petite hand and wiggles her fingers with a small wave. I wave back. She turns around and continues frolicking among the rocks. I am left in the dust; a poor unknown soldier fighting for the will to preserve her childhood, yet finding another path to a different world: reality.
I turn and leave, walking across the hard, cool surface of the rock. When I reach the sand, my footsteps last for only a second. Then, they are lost to the incoming tide. No traces are left behind. It is, as if I had not even been there.