Sand Castle II

April 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Sand Castles

When I begin building the towers that form the foundation of my sand castle constructions, I pick spots as high and far from the pits of water and wet sand as I conveniently can.  When the towers start to proliferate, I can’t reach past them to construct behind them unless I dig a new hole on the other side.  Also, hands filled with wet sand leave a trail.  If I have to lean across existing towers, the dripping sand often damages what I’ve created.

When working in brush and ink, I always begin at the upper left side, working across and downward.  This keeps my right palm from smearing fresh ink.  The same principle applies to sand castle building.  Where I build has much to do with where I will be building.

There is no story narrative accompanying the various constructions as they go up.  Sometimes I get images of kings, queens and princesses.  Mostly I experience a sense of the passing of mythic time.  Every hour is almost a hundred years as I watch decorations fray.  Over the course of a day, I watch civilizations pass as a noon’s intricate construction by evening is a worn old building approaching ruin.

Towers are always the first edifices to rise.  If it is a tall tower on the top of a high hill of sand excavated from the ditches where the watery sand is coming from, the hill of sand has to be patted firm to hold the weight.  These towers can be heavy.  If the sand is fine and the sun hot on a cloudless, windless day, over 20 layers of pancaked sand can create a four-foot pillar.  Sometimes the highest towers are grounded directly on the beach on densely packed, wave-flattened sand.

The towers rise using a number of sanditectural techniques.  It depends on how the wet sand is held and allowed to fall onto the just-established layer.  The sand can form as a pancake, as a brick, a ball, a crescent, vertical slivers, etc.  Towers rise, acquiring personalities based upon the techniques used.  Over the course of the day, architectural styles can suggest an epoch that inspired excess or a more humble, less ambitious time.

Against the towers, flying buttresses are engaged.  There could be two, three or four, depending on what the design demands.  Rising from near the main tower, the buttresses lean over and then support the central tower with a graceful arch.  Sometimes the arch leans effortlessly without a supporting hand.  Sometimes I break the sand bond between layers to force the buttress to bend.  Often I build the buttress in a fashion that it rises while leaning on my hand, which I keep in position while wet sand dries.

Sand arches are made in much the same way, except two buttresses rise and lean against each other.  I sometimes create a row of arches, often of ascending heights.  Often the arches span a road.

The large sand hills demand roads to make it possible for the eye to easily move up and down.  With a tower or towers on top, a road switches back and forth down the hillside, or around the mountain, bringing phantom carriages to and fro.  Balustrades line these pathways with drip sand filigrees topping the railings on both sides.  Arches often shade the roads, with some arches sharing a foundation with buttresses that caper off in an opposite direction.

Balconies with filigreed details often blossom off the towers, usually near the base, with sand pillars keeping the horizontal sand construction firm.  Tiny sand doorways suggest an egress.  Doors can’t be too ambitious or they violate the weight.  These towers have limited entrances and exits.

Children spy the play possibilities before the sand is dry.  Towers suggest damsels, roads imply knights, wide boulevards evoke carriages and coronation rituals.  I hear muttered stories from little mouths as the day progresses.  I’m deep into the passage of time, feeling decades pass within the hour, observing the effects of the elements on the machinations of humans.

Before I begin a project, I pay close attention to the waterline, noting where the high tide ends.  I always build beyond the high tide.  It creates the opportunity for there to be towers intact upon my return the next morning.  In places like Jamaica, which are populated with European children with parents nearby, unattended castles are not reflexively destroyed.  I can work the sand civilization over a period of days.  Often, the hard work of digging the holes only has to be done once, the first day.  Most other days can be all about the towers.

Sometimes, several days into a project, immersed in the world of sand castles, working and reworking established themes, I find that creativity comes visiting.  It is always several days into a project that the new ideas come.


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