Once upon a time, awoken from stillness and feeling lonesome, the sea crept up to the sand to tell it some jokes. Bubbling with mirth, it mischievously edged back, predicting sand’s response, and thinking itself really very funny. Maybe sand would laugh. Sand smiled quietly, but kept tranquil and cool.
Knowing sand was hard to impress, sea already had a comeback and waves of fresh lyrics. It tumbled about with irreverent banter, curious, confident and lively. Sand gently pushed sea back, blushing, and murmuring backchat.
‘Hmmm’, sea thought, its attention caught, ‘a challenge’.
Sea rolled in and tousled sand’s tight ringlets of seaweed and grasses. This teasing was sea being playful, sand guessed, wondering if sea acted without thinking or with too much thought or just had its own idiosyncratic ideas about what constitutes sweetness and charm. Sea pulled back and admired sand, its length and perfect fit, and it sighed happily. Sand looked at their arms interweaving, indulgent and amused.
And so days and darkness passed, sea approaching with tales from far-flung coasts, sand dancing at the shoreline. Eons of pursuit, visits and farewells followed, early pleasure creating an inevitable ebb and flow.
In between there were rougher encounters, when sea grumbled or became thunderous, when it was full of confusion or when it wouldn’t listen. Sometimes, sand turned away, saying nothing but holding its ground. Sea would meet a rocky shoulder, not calm and warm embrace. There were periods when sand refused to let sea’s breath fill it under its skin, which sea loved to do again and again, coming close with deep draws of air. Exasperated by this, sea would swear to stay away. It would stare icily at the sand, holding back from reaching for its soft shore. Who needs jokes or touch or breath or teasing, sea would insist, withdrawing with great effort and growing distant without a backward glance.
Watching this melodramatic back and forth, the birds and the fish would roll their eyes, impatiently explaining about fate and the moon, and, moreover, about acceptance and attachment, contentment and connection, and life. A old and socratic starfish, sitting right where both sea and sand could hear, was elected to give them advice.
It asked the sea, ‘can you help but meet the sand?’ Sea could not deny, it was at the mercy of the winds and tides, but also its own restless nature. The starfish asked the sand, ‘can you help but meet the sea?’ Sand wondered at its own motivations. It wanted only to offer the solace of its shore and to let the sea come and go. ‘Can you help but meet?’, the starfish concluded, shrugging and stretching its arms. Without sand’s boundaries, sea could never know itself, and sand would become mere desert bereft of the sea’s longing. Wind blew, full but fleeting. It would be infinite, but unpredictable, they knew.
As the starfish hoped, both sea and sand grew a little wiser from then on. Sea couldn’t imagine not drifting up to sand, sharing stories or kisses or gifts, before leaving sand shaking with laughter. Sand no longer wished to contemplate its reflections without sea’s conversation. On still nights, they would merely touch fingers and tongues, and the whole world would seem to be listening to the wind singing and the trees’ hum, as each wandered off to sleep.
Today, we think that science understands why the sea always returns and why the sand never leaves, but science can only account for gravity, not the powerful pull of difference, desire and delight, without end since the beginning of this story.