Friday, August 13, 2010

Sand castles and crawdads . . .

One morning last week, my son and I walked down to the beach at Lake Tahoe to do some crawdad fishing at the dock. As we were walking along the shoreline, he exclaimed, "My sand castle is gone!" I asked where it had been, and he pointed to a flat spot on the beach. "Right there!" he said, disappointedly. (If it looked like the one above [it didn't], I'd feel pretty bummed too!) I had to explain to him that, even at a lake, water rises and falls, and there are plenty of other little people's feet that lay waste to sand walls. In any case, castles on the shore are likely to disappear within a few hours. He didn't necessarily like that answer, but he eventually accepted it -- there were crawdads to catch after all!

And so we walked onto the dock, tied a bit of chicken skin to a rock and dropped it in the lake. Sure enough, within a few minutes, crawdads were grabbing, and holding on tight to, the bait. We would pull them up slowly until we could maneuver a basket underneath them and haul them up. The skin/bait would go back into the water, and we'd examine our catch. More often than not, the critter was pretty small (although the "kung fu crawdad" pose was menacing nonetheless) and we'd have to set it free. The act of freeing a crawdad to be caught some future day didn't seem to have the same sense of loss as did the vanished sand castle.

Maybe it was that the building of a sand castle is an act of creation, while crawdad fishing is simply taking advantage of what was there. Harder, I suppose, for all of us to relinquish something we've spent time fashioning than it is to let go of something that was never really ours to begin with. Whether its a sand-castle or an equally ephemeral snow-man -- or even something slightly more permanent like a thesis or book or stone castle -- nothing we fashion will last forever. Many things won't even outlast US! Nevertheless we cling to them as tenaciously as the crawdads gripped the chicken skin, even as they were being pulled away from the safety of their rocks.

School is starting up all around. Some of the public schools in the Denver area have already started; DU kicks in in a month. As much as I'd like to hold on to the sand-castle that is the summer, I know its on its way to being but a memory. And there is fresh sand to mold. I've learned from the process of building, of crawdad fishing, and I can take that with me into the fall. The new castle may not look the same; the crawdads may be bigger (or smaller). But I'm changed; I'm different -- as is the environment around me. And what's to come . . . ?

As the well-known proverb goes, "You can't step into the same river twice". Or, as our summer commencement speaker, Dean Rahmat Shoureshi, put it this morning, "Always have a 'Plan B' or a 'Plan C". We can enjoy the castles and crawdads as they come . . . and go, but then we need follow the spirit's leading into a new future.



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