Saturday, January 14, 2017

Meditations on a Sand Picture


It begins without event. A flat, calm firmament of white, black, and blue disguises a landscape of mountains and valleys, magically suspended above an empty world. The only barrier between sky and the below is a line of fragile and fleeting bubbles.



The instant the world is made, its destruction becomes inevitable. Trickles of sand, just two or three particles wide, seep through the barricade. The channels are tremulous, hesitating to fall too fast, drifting slowly from heaven to earth. The effect is slight at first but gradually takes shape on the empty ground. The percolating streams build into dells and hillocks, imperceptible and without a sound.

Is this how our world's own peaks were formed? Valleys overhead, invisible above the rippled skies, dissolving into mountains below? Or when God said, "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," was this the picture Adam drew in his mind's eye? An ocean of dust, dissolving inescapably into a lower ocean? Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts.


Hillocks sharpen and dells deepen, each heavenly valley correlating to an earthly peak. The welkin gives its lifeblood to terra firma.


Increasing intensity. Some magnetic force compels the world above to plummet, spurting out in spasmodic gushes. Tiny streams converge together at a single point, swell and expand, then cascade together in a furious rush, rippling outward just before smashing against the peak of a growing mountain.

All of a sudden, there is the point, the crack between the clouds. A fissure opens. Bubbles shift, struggling to fill the gap. They hold on for a second or two, but the rushing pressure forces them up through the collapsing valley to shatter in an explosion of fine particles. The heavens dissolve now, dividing into displaced wedges that crumble away faster than blinking. Still no sound of dissolution. The world remains silent.

video

When the last bubble breaks, an arrow-shaped slice of sky remains suspended for a moment, then sinks down, dissolving, to collapse at last. It is over in a moment. When the dust settles, nothing remains but a flat expanse of earth, the sleek surface belying the complex patterns beneath—echoes of a landscape.

The blue particles, lighter than sand, rise to the top as if destined to become part of the next sky.

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