I made an offering recently in the sand. I sat and watched as the waters of the Atlantic reclaimed it, advancing at first like a tentative squirrel inching toward a proffered nut; then like a voracious beast that relentlessly devours everything in its way.
Eventually, we will all end up in the sea.
Another time on the banks of a reservoir serving a mid-sized American city, I left an adolescent offering on the shore, hoping to impregnate an entire world but probably only upsetting some fish. It was a man-made reservoir, barren and lifeless and fenced off with “No Trespassing” signs. Both of us were craving some excitement in our lives.
A week later I returned with a female friend for an illicit swim. We lounged on one of the man-made islands of up-turned earth. Twice we swam through those waters, but nothing happened to her.
They say we come from the sea, that our forebears crawled from the waters to lay their seed in the sand and elude the watery burden. They say we grew appendages to move about the hard earth and build cities and pursue our manifest destiny.
But inside the earth, beneath layers and layers of rock, the earth has a molten core, a fire that ignites and consumes. That same fire resides at the center of our souls, exciting and igniting us and propelling us to our doom. It is the fire that makes us restless, that makes us hungry, that throws us into each other’s arms. It is the fire that thrusts us from our self-contained solitude; that urges us relentlessly from our comfortable homes into the tempests that rage outside.
But that fire, over time, becomes unbearable. How long can we desire what is outside our reach? How long can we chase dreams that outrun us? How long can we bear to be less than everything? Eventually the fire must be destroyed.
It is then we seek the water. After a lifetime of feints, of going to the sea for our vacations, of craving glasses of water when we are thirsty, of calming ourselves with the recorded sound of the sea to help us sleep, we finally relax and slip back into the waters that quench.
We have for a time triumphed over the water. But eventually the waters will run over us again, calming and eroding us and reducing us to mere water-borne molecules longing again to be joined.