On summer afternoons, we took the hose from the back of the house and laid it in the sandbox. Then, we built. We carved. We sculpted. Our goal was not some elaborate city or complex road system. We had no plan to complete, no vision to fulfill. We just dug and piled and cupped our hands over the coarse gray sand. . .
I have tried to write about this memory for years. Tried to find the way into it, the meaning, the reason I – at 6 or 7 – would dedicate so much time to building in the sandbox. I wasn’t inclined as a child to be visually artistic. My facility has always been with words. So why this time with my brother building.
It’s like this with writing often, this question of why something grips us, why we remember some small moment so vividly, why we feel the need, the urge, the compulsion to write it down, to shape it, to twist it.
If we are wise artists, we hold that moment lightly, like a yellow butterfly, a saucer of near-transparent bone china etched with blue flowers. We lift it to our faces and gaze. We turn our hands to let the light hit an edge; we put our lips near it and stretch our breath across it. Then, we put it on the window sill again. Until we are ready.
It is too easy to think we know all there is from that moment, to think we see, we understand. If we do, this grace in form becomes a thing, something understood (at least we think), dull, heavy.
Yet, in these gifts of unknowing, mystery dances. An ocean-depth of glow and amazement. All in this gift.
So I don’t push too hard at this memory. There is a time for that hunt, and it is not now.
Now, I feel this memory precious in my chest, so golden and filigree that if I push hard it will break and all that import, all that weight held in the tiny fibers of it will leak out before I can cup it in words.
After hours in the afternoon sun, J and I laid the threaded metal end of the green hose in one of the tunnels. We turned that pierced steel handle and ran back to watch.
There, in the sun, was a river, a canal, a delta shining. The water ran quick through, obeying our paths and making its own. It ran and ran, and we cupped wet sand and built. Until it was time.
We shut down that hose and watched . . . all the water in the world sink out of sight.
Later – after dinner or the next afternoon – we returned to witness the sharp curve of a sand cave, laced with foam. The gift of our creation in gorgeous remnants.
What do you do when a memory stays with you, haunts you? Do you write it out, force it to mean? Or do you rest with it, sure it will come to mean?