Thursday, October 21, 2004


wind, sand, originally uploaded by azurenath.

Seaboard towns the world over have something slightly seedy about them, in Greece as in Jersey. Even if ships no longer sail in and out of their bustling ports carrying syph and sailors they remain seamy somehow, retaining a circus-just-passed-through vibe, an aroma of stale buttered popcorn. Discarded candy wrappers on the ground, the inside exposed, pieces of food sticking like flesh to skin. During the season the sheer amount of circulation makes for respectability but once the minivans head home and the days get shorter even the ocean starts to look gray.

We parked in Belgium and walked to France. I’d never seen such dunes. Once the ocean ended and the sand began there was a broad length of beach, a long rectangle that stretched till the horizon, square km after square km of sand. And the dunes began, smooth as smurf caps, hard to scramble up as they fell to crumbs under your foot. We hid behind one and lit up. When it was sunny we were happy, but when the clouds crept across we saddened. They pulled our moods like puppet strings.

In the dunes we were sheltered from the wind, but when we went back out it blew us into France. The few people scattered along the shore played with the most perfect instruments, toys fashioned especially for the intersection of sand and wind: kites, paragliders, wind chariots. From behind we heard a commotion of syncopated thumps, and then seven horsemen and their cavaliers galloped by, manes alive.

In France we found a restaurant and ate moules-frites, mussels and French fries. I thought it funny that the door had a sign on it that said “Please slam.” It was a seaside town too, where if you were lucky with the coin machine you could win an iron or a dishwasher or a full set of pots and pans. The meal was cheap but good, there were so many steaming mussels in their black cookpot, and even more fries, hot and dry outside and explosive with moisture and soft potato inside. It quickly exhausted us.

On the way back the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, so strongly that we could lean into it and not fall. Little particles of sand rose off the ground and traveled together in swift processions, hurtling along until they tumbled back down. When we crouched low we saw a phantom highway, wisps of sand-smoke snaking around our bodies and then meeting back up to go on.

The walk back was so much longer because the wind was blowing in the wrong direction now. We labored and leaned, and had to keep walking because we still weren’t there. The clouds maintained their games with the sun, and the light was forced to follow. When our heads faced forward the noises of the wind were all we could hear, but if they turned to the side all was silent. It was no way to walk, though. So we listened to it blow.


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