The Pulse: BC / Greece
Of Sand & Salt
Matthew remembered a fantasy he had when he was travelling in Greece several years ago. He was walking along the beach in Stalos, Crete. It was almost dark, and the sands stretched into the sea. The calm sea stretched into a horizon where sea and sky were barely distinguishable.
He thought about the enormity of the space around him, and wondered where we fit in this immensity. Or where we go once this fleeting moment on the beach is gone. He got out his iPhone, took a panorama, and started writing.
I imagine that I'm a grain of sand;
one tiny grain amid the sands of time,
drifting downward toward entropy
through an hour-glass adamantine.
In the moment I walk unsteadily, here on the beach in the encroaching dark. I imagine myself falling from these seaside stretches of sand beneath my feet, falling through the moment — the narrow waist of the hour-glass — into the sand dunes of greater time, which during the day are searing hot, high in the desert sun of the Atacama, deep in the Valley of the Moon. And during the night, deadly cold.
I fall within the confines of a metaphor, an hour-glass I can hold in my hands, or set on a still table in the wee hours of the morning. The table appears to be absolutely still, but it’s in fact moving at thousands of kilometres a second through the abstract grid we call space. We exist in moments in vast stretches of time, sea-swept beaches and sun-dried deserts.
We’re falling through this medium, hour-glass or chronometer of quartz, amethyst or vermarine, themselves tiny bits of silicon heated into transparency. The whole thing seems almost magical: we see the seaside grains of time falling through the contours of solid rock that has been changed by us to look like nothing at all.
Matthew put away his phone and thought about this. He thought about Camus’ notion that our selves are like water flowing through our fingers. This made him think about the Daoist concept of water: it seems like nothing — clear, empty, invisible — yet it gives shape to everything around it. Molten glass is like water. Water and dust make life possible, yet lay no claim to sovereignty. Like the Dao, that inexplicable name that cannot have a name. Water and dust are also like Brahman, invisible to the eye and yet everywhere. Within us. Around us. All this is That. He thought, We're the sand that falls through the glass, and the glass itself. He took out his phone and started writing again.
The Sands of Time
The sands of time are pushed up and down the strand
sometimes like Sisyphus' boulder up and down
and sometimes like the breath of lovers
in Keats' sonnet: Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
in and out
like the breathing sound of our brief lives.
The waves fall rhythmically on the shore
as the tide moves in and out
working its magic on a larger scale
to the dark waters of Earth from the distant moon.
We catch, in momentary drift
the music of the spheres
Walking along the beach, Matthew also imagined that he was a grain of salt dropped into the distant waves. He imagined that the afterlife could shake him like a grain of salt might be shaken into something else, floating, far from its once-solid form. He felt sorry for the grain of salt, which was a sand of a different type. He wrote several paragraphs outlining the vicissitudes of his new little friend.
Poor little NaCl. You were so proud of your name, and knowing where you came from, when all of a sudden — you were eating salty chips and watching the Montreal Canadiens and it was sudden death so the stakes were high — you were flown head over heels over the goal post and into outer space. They called it a cardiac arrest but you weren't arrested, at least not by the police.
As you flew over the net, you asked yourself, What was the goal, again, exactly? What was the score? You looked at the scoreboard but all you saw was a sky dotted with stars. You looked at the referee and saw black and white lines like on a highway, grey and silver curves, strata of granite and zirconium, silicon and bilactium, jisticulite and col;dindg^gidum. You saw strange fishlike creatures in the layers of what you used to call rock.
You dipped and tumbled along valleys of sediment. Twenty centuries banked on your left. A trillion leagues of salty water were once on your right. The centre plummeted till the notion of co-ordinates, east or west, nord or sood sat there iconically, like the way Kali used to blink at you, ten lifetimes ago.
Planes, viscosity, your self packed into a full metal jacket of dreams. You splintered into a billion far-flung parts, then cohered from a billion galaxies into yourself.
A bit of you came in from each part: eyes that can't yet see, ears that can't yet hear, little toes. Someone threw in some seeds and you grew a tail. You were no longer rotating along multiple planes, but rather you were sitting in a high-chair, your arms lifting a spoon, tasting salt for the first time. Learning to say Ma.