Sand Castles

by Marc Moran

August 12, 2002

Every summer for as long as I can remember our family has rented a house at the Jersey Shore. Different years, different beaches, but always we were to be found, laughing, playing and soaking up the sun along the coast of my native state.

The adult males, as was our custom, would stay at home during the week, working, while the women and the children were given, depending on how the dollars were flowing, for a week, a month or more, a break from the routine and a place to relax and regroup. On Friday evenings the men would join them with bottles of wine, card games and cigars. It was a time to talk about nonsense, read books and draw pictures. It was a time for flying kites and beachcombing in the fading light while the green waves pounded the surf in a somnolent susurrus.

This year we chose Brigantine Island, as much for its beauty as its convenience. For my part I agreed to commute from work each day, while my wife and son relaxed and enjoyed the restful atmosphere and briny air.

One afternoon last week I had made the drive from my office to the house on the dunes in a little over an hour and discovered that they had gone down to the water's edge together to build sandcastles. I stashed my briefcase and, dropping my shoes and socks on the deck, I rolled up my pants and walked onto the strand where my beautiful family played, oblivious to the world. Halfway down the beach my son looked up, perhaps sensing my approach. He rose quickly and ran at me, full tilt, his little arms pumping furiously calling out as loud as he could, "Daddy, daddy!" as he came at me.

We met a little more than halfway to the water in an embrace of salty limbs and sandy hair.

"I've built a castle," he squealed proudly, pointing towards his mother and a significant mound of sand beside her.

"It's wonderful," I said. "Show me what you've done."

"Look daddy, a moat."

I bent to kiss my wife and then settled down to examine my son's work.

For quite some time now my wife and I have ended our evenings together sitting in the darkness, drinking a glass of wine and discussing our lives, our world and the events unfolding before us. It is not always relaxing and it is not without its share of disquiet that we unburden ourselves to one another. It is what husbands and wives do when they love each other and raise a family with purpose.

On one of these nights my wife expressed her sense of dread at my ability to speak out on the topic of Race and the impending disaster of America's slide into chaos. If it were up to her we would flee, like refugees, from our home and our community, from the graves of my forefathers and the playgrounds of our children. She would pretend that things might work themselves out, that others would speak and write if I would not and I believe that she might be right, but I cannot take that chance. I can only speak for myself, only pen my own thoughts, but only I can give my voice to the cause for our struggle. Not for me, not for her, not even for my own son, but for something bigger and far more important to us all - our people.

"Do you have to put your name on what you write?" she asked me one evening as the stars spun above us.

"Yes, I do. It's my name and I am not ashamed of what I think. I want people to know that it is worth taking the risk. If I do it, so then might someone else," I said firmly.

"Aren't you afraid of what might happen? Aren't you afraid of them coming after us?"

I thought on this for a moment, on different levels. I am, if nothing in my life, loyal. I give my word and I honor it. I am bound to protect my family and to ensure their safety, but not at the expense of those who will follow. Would I die for my son? Of course, but would I live so that his son could be enslaved? Never. I realize that there is no room for escape, nowhere left to run and that as this final act in the history of the White Race plays itself out, we will be forced to choose sides, one way or another. I prefer to speak up while the others run from the truth because not enough of us dare.

I choose to side up now with the people who share my culture, my genes, my beliefs. I have no desire to be a traitor to the nation my family sacrificed their own lives to build, no thought to abandon the ideals of the people who brought me into the world, no choice but to pledge my sacred honor to those who have done the same for me and mine. Whatever happens, will happen and there is little I can do to stop the inevitable. What I can do, I must. I told my wife this and she nodded in the darkness, but said nothing more.

My son had built his castle so that the walls, rather than face the surf head on, were set on a diagonal, diamond shaped, with towers out to the front just beyond the moat. My wife, I could tell, had decorated the parapets with shells and dune grass pennants.

"Why are the towers outside of the castle?" I asked him.

"To protect it against the waves," he said proudly. "To protect the people in the village."

There, inside the wall of the castle, was a series of square buildings and squat structures secure behind the walls of the keep. There was an elaborate castle just down the beach, not far from the one my son had built, and I noticed that as beautiful as it was, my son had not copied it in style nor in design. The beach was slowly emptying and the breeze was coming in cooler now, as the sun began to dip toward the horizon.

My wife gathered their things together and asked if we were ready to go.

"I think we'll wait and see what happens," I said smiling.

"Yeah, we're going to wait, see what happens," my son said to his mother.

"Then I'll see you boys up at the house," she said, and walked up the beach toward the dunes.

On the second date I had with the woman who would one day be my wife, we went with another comic to Sunset Beach on the island of Oahu. The waves on Sunset are big and perfect for body surfing. They are shore breaks, where the waves literally fall upon the sand in concussive explosions of water and foam. It is not the type of beach for napping.

Perhaps I was showing off, perhaps I was simply being reckless, but within twenty minutes of entering the water and several hairy rides on the back of fifteen foot breakers, I found myself farther out than I had ever been before and completely unable to move towards shore. I had been caught in the riptide and was being drawn inexorably out to sea, while my future wife sat on the beach laughing with another man.

I tried to draw their attention by waving my arms. After a few minutes they both looked up, and like a scene in a comedy, they waved back, turned, and resumed their conversation. I realized in that very moment that unless I could figure something out immediately, I would certainly drown.

I am a strong swimmer and have been most of my life. The ocean cares little for such boasts. As hard as I could stroke, the current carried me farther from shore. I floated for a few moments, calming the panic that rose in me and assessed the situation with the dispassion of a judge. Continue to fight against the current and you will lose your strength. Lose your strength and you will succumb. Surrender and you will drown. Drown and you will be forgotten. Nothing will be left behind but two people on the shore and in time, they too, will forget.

I looked up and down the coast and in an instant I made my decision, the only choice I could make. The riptide was heading out to sea in an easterly direction. To the east of Sunset was a series of huge rocky outcroppings where waves crashed in a deafening roar that I could hear from the water. I decided to be carried into the rocks rather than out to sea. I swam with all the strength I had at an oblique angle, all the while struggling to head into the rocks. The waves seemed bigger from the ocean than they had on the shore and I knew it wouldn't end pleasantly, regardless of what happened. By this time I could see that both of them had risen from the sand and were pointing in my direction. They were waving to the single lifeguard who tried his best to make it out to me before realizing that adding his own life to the mix would solve nothing.

As they stood on the beach watching I focused on one thing only, land. I have no idea how long it took me, but when I finally collapsed on the cold wet sand, bleeding from the scrapes and cuts on my feet, knees and hips, they ran up to me in wonder.

"What were you doing?" she asked me.

"Are you nuts?" the comedian added.

The lifeguard walked back down the beach without a word and I lay there breathing deeply, my face buried in the wet sand, trying to recall just exactly how close I had just come to the end, for nothing.

"I almost drowned," I said weakly, sand clinging to my mouth.

"No you didn't," she said. "You made it to shore."

The waves came in three at a time and slowly they began to eat away at the foundation of the towers out front. The first one slowly caved in and fell, and likewise the second and the third. I was surprised to see that a channel had been cut where the towers stood and this held the water off of the walls until long after the bigger castle next us had been entirely engulfed and taken back by the sea. We sat there until the walls were breached and eventually the village was reclaimed by the tide and then we got up and gathered his castle building tools.

"That was quite a castle," I said sincerely. "You did a fine job."

"Did you see how the towers protected the village?" he asked me.

"Yes, yes I did. Very impressive work." I thought about what he had built and how stoically he had watched it come apart, for a five year old.

"Where did you get the idea to build the castle like that?" I asked.

"From watching the waves," he said nonchalantly. "They come in at an angle you know. I thought it would last longer that way."

"Well, it certainly did. I noticed that the towers protected the castle pretty well. That was a good idea you had."

"It wasn't my idea, Dad, it was yours."

I hadn't been there when he built it and I couldn't remember having said anything about putting towers in front of a castle so I asked him what he meant.

"You said that sometimes you have to stand up to protect your community and you have to be up front about it. So that's what I did."

I stopped for just a second and looked down on this beautiful child standing there covered in sand, smiling, and I could feel my heart breaking in my chest. Maybe it was the slanting rays of the sun in my eyes that made them tear up, but I'm not so sure.

"I said that?" I asked him.

"Sure. You say it all the time."

Later that night as my son slept in well-earned slumber, I told my wife what had happened after she had left the beach. It was a good evening and I didn't want to spoil it with talk about our culture and the things that weigh heavy on my mind, but I couldn't think of a way to exclude it either. I reminded her about going to Washington, D.C., at the end of August, and that it was important, and I thought about how easy it was for a five-year-old to turn concept into reality, even if it was nothing more than a sand castle. My wife listened, but I know she didn't quite get it. She had never seen the ruins of Egypt, never heard of Ur nor read Xenophon's Anabasis. She was there when he built the castle, but she missed it when the walls came tumbling down.

I thought, in the cool sea air under the velvety spread of the Milky Way, that it doesn't matter much if it all ends in ruins. In the cosmic sense, our civilization is little more than my son's sand castle and like the greatest of them, our too is destined to collapse upon itself leaving no more trace than a few scattered blocks.

It does, however, matter that someone stand out front, ready to meet the forces of whatever comes, to protect our community and to be up front about it.

My son taught me that.


Tell a friend about this article:

Back to VNN Main Page