The Year in Sand: 2006

For various reasons that are implied in my Last Exit blog, 2006 wasn't much of a year for sand sculpture. I did a total of four, all free-piled, and all but one pretty lightweight efforts.

July 7 or thereabouts: 06P-1.
I was on my way home, walking south along the beach, when I noticed the sand was pretty good. Ocean Park sand is highly variable. Although the tide was coming in I made a small pile and carved it with my hands in the few minutes between major wave sets.

November 24: 06P-2.
Again on my way home but this time not only was the sand good but the tide was going down. This allowed time for more considered construction and I ended up with a large simple arch. It's an elegant shape, and I like it. About three feet tall.

December 16: 06P-3
This one was intentional. I even took a couple of small tools with me. When I got to the beach, though, I realized a recent wind storm had driven away the fine sand so I had to limit myself to a shorter sculpture than planned. Also less detailed, but it was still good. It was nice to get some tools into the sand and do finer work.

December 30: 06P-4 "The Drummer Boy's Gift"
Strong cold winds had wiped out plans for major sculpture earlier in the week. Saturday came up warm and calm so I packed some tools and a camera and headed by skateboard for the beach. The full report follows the images.

Where Goes the Out-of-work Muse?

The danger of having a savior is that, like a virus, he decides he likes the new landscape better than the old and, using superior power, simply elbows aside the ostensible owner of the land and leaves you homeless. What price salvation? Faced with the cliff, just about anything looks better but long-term viability is in some doubt. What's the point? Dead or moved aside, the effect is the same.

Emotional reality is something else. Intellectually I know that if God really wanted to supplant me he certainly wouldn't have to wait or be delicate about it. Just move in, any time. Emotions are more delicate, and I was no longer at home within myself. Jesus held the deed. I gave it to him, having had my own failures illuminated time and again. Yes, I was still here but was I any longer me? Emotionally I trembled on the edge of dissolution, and emotion seems to be the foundation of life.

Within beach sand live little organisms, making homes between the sand grains. That has been my way, making no demands for space but finding my way through nearly invisibly. Sand sculpture is an illustration of that. I don't have to ask anyone for space. The whole thing is temporary. Right now there's a sculpture but in a few hours it will be gone, overwritten by tide, carried away only in memory.

Love is a process. Life is a process. Sand sculpture is a process. Emotion is process through time. It seemed God wanted a finished product more than he wanted a process. Even I am susceptible to cultural ideas and there are many ideas about God floating around out there. The only way to expunge them, it seems, is to live the hell-track for a time and then have the Living God's light show that track for the lie it is.

Art, being braided from individually delicate components, is even more delicate. Break one thread and the whole thing falls apart. Idea, fascination, touch, dying in the desert.

I may give up but God doesn't. His view is long, his patience unfathomable. He holds on and waits for the right time, and the lesson is eventually learned. What is the lesson? That we say we know God, but we really don't. Most of the time I put words into God's mouth. "I don't want to go that way because I know what you're going to do." I resist. Resistance leads to general grey-out. Could God's plan be any worse than this?

Build number: 06P-4
Title: "The Drummer Boy's Gift"
Date: December 30
Location: Venice Breakwater, south side
Start: 1000; construction time approx 4 hours
Height: about 3 feet
Base: about 4 by 2 feet
Assistant: none
Photo digital: EOS-1D w/20mm, walkaround and details
Photo 35mm: none
Photo 6X7: none
Photo volunteer: none
Video: none
Equipment note: portable tool subset, skateboard transport

I guess it was Christmas 2005. Debbie, Nate and I were doing something, and Nate mentioned that "The Little Drummer Boy" was his favorite Christmas song. I asked "Why?" I don't like most Christmas music. Well, I don't even like Christmas very much. The drummer boy song was sappy. Playing a drum for Jesus? Come on. Made for Hallmark. Jesus demands bigger things.
"It's his gift, man. Playin' his drum for the little baby Jesus. It was what he could do. He did everything he knew how. Worship, man."

Well, after that I sort of had to change my mind on that song. I still didn't like its dum-tiddly-tiddly-dum repetition, but the idea connected to something that Brennan Manning mentioned in his "Ruthless Trust," about a monk dancing in the monastery's basement and being recognized for it while the heavy-duty brothers upstairs played out their ritual. Perhaps God was, through the voice of the church, calling me to great things but I'm not the material of which heroes are made. I'm more the Jacob type, cheating and lying low in an effort to slide through life unnoticed.

The 2006 New Year sculpture got rained out. Cold, windy, nasty. It cleared up later but I was in no mood for it anyway. Cancellation was easy. Months went by. I was fighting what I thought was God's direction, battered by a crosschop produced by winds from 18 directions. My response was typical: hunker down and survive. But how to resist an internal attack? The Holy Spirit can't be hidden from. No matter where I go, there is I Am, and he's waiting. Waiting for the lesson to sink in, life's circumstances working on consciousness and slow thought. However long it takes, I Am is there. Secretly He keeps me from falling over entirely. How much am I willing to give up in order to keep him the hell out of my life? You don't want to know.

Months went by. Desert months, a long summer with no rain, and every day gotten through just seemed to make the distant resolution another day's distance away.

A friend asked a good question. "What do you want?" I've never been allowed to ask. The question is improper. This is why I'm an interstitial organism, going through life without asking for things. I take what filters down. Eventually, though, that just doesn't work. The tectonic plates of life can take only so much pressure and then they slip and rearrange. In the chaos truth can be seen more easily, beams of light in the dust of movement.

OK. The 54-year-old drummer boy heads for the beach. I may not be good for anything else but I can do sand sculpture. The muse rises from self-destructive ashes as the pile of sand rises from its wet roots. God seems pleased.

Others are also pleased. Sigrid and Ed come walking along.
"Where have you been? We've missed you."
"Well, um, doing other things."
"We're glad you're back."
Later, Debbie, Nate and her parents come by and soon there are three more sculptures growing.

Perhaps I'm lucky. How many other people's muses survive the psychic equivalent of nuclear winter, a pall of death spread over the land Mordoresque in its dry fogginess? Mine has come through, and the only sign of deterioration is some lack of immediate tool-feel and physical conditioning. Perhaps it was a kind of rest. The sculpture is planned from the start: a broad sweep of sand balanced with areas of detail that will show the light.

The result is OK. The contrast part works out great but the actual design is somewhat lacking. It's worth trying again, and the main lesson learned seems to be that free-piled sculpture can be as effective as formed if I manage to restrain my impulse toward adding things.

"Are you interested in some lunch? Killer Shrimp?"
"Sounds good to me."
"Do you think you can get there before us?"
"It'll be close."

I was lucky on the lights, but only had to wait a few minutes for them. We sit outside at the end of the year. I'm moderately post-sculptural, ideas for new sculptures flying around in my head. Maybe the little baby Jesus liked that drummer boy better than I'd believed.


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