Wednesday, June 14, 2017

To See a World in a Grain of Sand

To See a World in a Grain of Sand

Why does it feel so fantastic to walk barefoot on a sandy beach?

I strolled along bright white Carmel Beach recently and my toes felt so good I thought they would burst into song!  My toes are alive, with the sound of sand grains, la la la la.

(That’s my metaphor for happy sandy feet - singing.  Sometimes we say that sand itself sings, when the wind blows across it.  My toes, and the beach, a sand choir!)

When youth and adults come on retreat to our Blue Theology Mission Station, one of our wisest teachers is sand:

-Sand between our toes.
-Sand left clean after we do a beach clean-up.
-Sand crabs, about which we collect data for a citizen science project on climate change.
-Sand dunes happy to have non-native plants removed and native plants restored.
-Sand images in the haikus we write with our resident poet.
-More sand between our toes.  Also in our hair.

Yes, to be a Blue Theologian is to be an “arenophile,” which means a sand lover. Areno is Latin for sand, phile means lover.  Areno, like arena?  Turns out the Romans called those big arena amphitheaters “sand places,” a big sand box, because they used sand to mop up the blood of gladiators, Christians and lions.

Yes, sand is good for mopping things up.  Just ask flood victims.  Sand also provides traction; sand on an icy road.  Sometimes God acts like sand: absorbing hurt, slowing us down, helping us be safe.

I like how sand preaches to us of mystery and paradox.  Sand shifts and blows and changes a landscape overnight. One grain is so tiny, but it’s usually sitting there next to billions and billions of other grains.  It’s a rock, but it feels so soft underfoot.  (Another fun sand fact; at a gravel yard, like my regular haunt Granite Rock in Seaside, sand is not a kind of rock, but a size.  It’s in the bin between gravel (bigger, coarser) and silt (floury.)  Sand can be formed by many different kinds of rock.  Carmel Beach’s sand is so white because it’s almost pure limestone.)

Mr. Mystical Paradox, William Blake, on sand:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

Be in touch for more information about our Blue Theology mission trips for youth and retreats for adults here on the Monterey Peninsula.  Prepare for sand between your toes.

I’ve begun another weekly ocean column, slightly longer, “I Must Go Down to the Sea Again.”  A little more science than these pieces.  Beginning with the Seven Principles of Ocean Literacy – do you know what they are?

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