Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23, 2016 - The Sandbar

It starts when you’re introduced to the idea of the sandbar.  It’s just one of those tantalizing things that you have to walk across.  Because it’s not always there.  Now you see it, now you don’t.  So, of course, in the beginning, you’re very careful.  You only walk across at safe times when the tide is very low.  The bridge appears like a beacon, and you walk safely over to the point.  That’s not so hard.

But it’s the idea of an appearing, disappearing, reappearing bridge that seems to make people want to cut things closer to the edge.  They “forget” to check the tide charts, but there’s still plenty of solid ground, so what’s the problem?  Although . . . is the tide coming in or going out?  That could make a big difference.  Sometimes the untrained eye isn’t sure.

There’s a calling from the point, and it gets stronger and stronger as the sandbar gets smaller and smaller.  It calls to you, like a hypnotic siren out at sea.  What could it hurt to walk quickly across and back?  You promise yourself you won’t be gone long.  You just want to go to the edge of the point and look out into the bay.  Is that so terrible?

The sandbar makes a temporary appearance.
The sandbar is a wily creature who lives on the beach.  He spends his days searching for people to tempt into crossing over to the point.  Many hear his call and many respond, and often everything turns out just fine.  In fact, everything is stunningly beautiful.  But he knows differently, this creature does.  He entices people.  He tempts them with rewards of wonderful things if they just cross over, just a little further.  He knows the tides, and he knows the secret astronomical tides (when the moon is full or new) even better.  Those are his favorite tides.  And he waits.  Through sun and rain, summer and winter.  He waits.

I saw a group of people go across a sandbar on one fine and sunny day.  It was a larger sandbar than this one.  They stayed out on a temporary island longer than they should have.  I kept trying to wave to them from the shore with exaggerated movements to get them to come back because I knew what was going to happen, but I was far away and I don’t know if they saw me.  They were tourists. 

Eventually, they realized that they were quickly becoming surrounded by the ocean.  They joined arms across, shoulder to shoulder, in a long line and began to walk, keeping the line together and helping anyone who stumbled or panicked.  I watched them nervously from a safe distance.  There were no lifeguards; many places in Maine don’t have them at all.

The ocean began to rush in furiously.  At first they were knee high in water, but in a matter of minutes they were thigh high.  In the blink of an eye, the water was up to their waists.  By then, I could hear them on the wind as they cheerfully encouraged one another and held on for dear life.  They kept walking toward the land.  The water reached their chests, and I could feel real fear coming from them.

But they crossed over an invisible threshold, and even though the water rushed in ever faster and ever more furious, they had crossed a point where the depth began to decrease for them.  They had reached the land.  The real land.  Not the tempestuous, murderous, beautiful, alluring, desirable, cruel sandbar.  Another ten minutes, and the story might have ended very differently.  It was a lesson well learned for them and for me.

Yet still, I take my chances.  I do things I shouldn’t.  Today there was no problem.  Last winter in this same spot, I made it back without a moment to spare.  It was snowing, well below freezing, and I had forgotten my cellphone, as usual.  I slipped and fell on an icy rock, but managed to limp back.  The sandbar lost that time, but barely.  I got lucky.

Tempting.  Tricky, very tricky.

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