There are two main patterns of sand created by wind: the tiny wet peaks and the large dune-waves. The latter are the kind most people are familiar with, the gently curving layers reminiscent of the underside of a snake. The wet sand, however, is not moved so easily, which is what leads to the former. Minute imperfections lead to very tiny peaks in the flat surface of waterlogged sand, peaks that are carved by abrasion into sharply defined little ridges that leave stark shadows when the afternoon sun hangs low in the sky. Otherwise, the flatness is grey and unremarkable until it fades to white and the undulating waves begin again.
I turned and faced into the wind, and looked to the strip to see a layer of white mist that moved at breakneck speed, breaking in places and rejoining as mist does, and rushing past my feet to the expanse beyond. This was the sand, blown in flat clouds, and I watched it and realized where those tiny wet-sand ridges came from. It was then that I realized that the sand was not just flowing, but breaking on the ridges and the dunes, cresting and breaking in waves, and each small hill was built up as a windbreak gathered more and more sand until it reached that equilibrium at which sand settles.
This made me step back to the walkway and look down, to see the rushing waves of sand directly perpendicular to the breakers of the Atlantic. And what I found surprising was not what my eyes saw - the parallels between the sand and the water - but what my mind instantly corrected in what I saw. That is, the sand and the water were actually moving in very - extremely - different ways. Water moves in waves just like air moves in waves when sound is produced: it isn't displaced along the wave, but simply moves up and down. When a wave crests on the beach, water is not actually being dragged from far out in the ocean to the shore. The same water is simply carrying successive waves of force, caused mainly by gravity. The sand, on the other hand, was being displaced, and if the wind were to continue unabated for an eternity, then the sand would pile far, far up the Eastern seaboard, where no doubt children would play and set makeshift flags on its peaks until chased away by the adults who 'knew better' and saw money in the thing.
It would take so much more force to move grains of sand in the way the ocean is displaced in waves, greater, at least, in immediacy than the force the moon exerts on the planet and that the Earth's core exerts on its own surface. If you have ever seen a shockwave that disrupts the Earth's crust you know what I mean. Atomic tests come to mind, as do asteroids and very large earthquakes. Horrible things move the ground like it was the ocean. Be glad the wind pushes the sand instead.
Some say this sort of thing is the death of romance, this mind's eye understanding that does not allow me to see the art in the simple confluence of sand and surf, but only in their complex difference for similar effect. I can't write poetry any other way, though, so if all this wonderful Western empiricism is a handicap then I was simply born with nothing below the knees, as it were. I would very much like to think it a virtue I have acquired in its nascent stages, as it begins to understand things far better than it once did and carries me along for the ride. I would like to think it improves poetry like being a chef improves your appreciation of an excellent meal.
I was standing there on the sand again and watching the sand swirl around me and thinking that these waves are mechanistic like all geology, this process, but if I were told that this was an alien machine that had gone on for millennia to make these tiny ridges and control such complex processes as wind erosion does, I would yelp and cry and try to get my feet out of the sandstream. I would moan, "I am in the way! Stop it! Let me get out!" Because I would feel like I was standing halfway into something I could not grasp intellectually, and that might sweep up and kill me even though it had never done so before in all recorded history.
It would certainly not help if the sand was green or the people were some alien species or if the wind sounded like harmonic howling, as it so often does even here on Earth. And if you told me that there were tiny little clawed and chitinous creatures that lived under my feet in the flesh of this machine, I would be afraid of them and for them. Look out, I am a giant who is very frightened, because you have more legs than me, and harder skin, and live where I cannot see.
I would want to get the hell out of that weird alien machine as fast as I could. And yet there I stood, because this Earth-North-Carolina-Sunset-Beach-machine is a nice and comforting machine. I remember standing in it as a small child and failing to understand even more than I fail to understand now, and somehow this imparts a feeling of security. Perhaps because it did not kill me then in my time of weakness. This is the wonder of nature.
from a letter to my love in the early morning to say that I am doing all right