Near the water’s edge

This young boy was too busy to notice I was taking photos of him as he worked. On the beach at Yorktown, Virginia, March 2014

This young boy was too busy to notice I was taking photos of him as he worked.
At the beach at Yorktown, Virginia, March 2014

“Children instinctively choose to build near the water’s edge knowing that the water to sand ratio is vital, and I believe that they also know that at the end of the exercise their hard work will be reclaimed by the incoming tide. Even very young children know that they cannot take their creation home – I have never seen a child having a temper tantrum because it has to stay there…”Niki Buchan

Recently I was chatting via Skype with a few of my fellow bloggers, and one of the things we talked about is how children’s play is their work; the way they learn about the world, and about life.  For a child, play has much to teach.

At the beach, perhaps we too can learn from watching children building their sandcastles.   As Buchan points out, they must find just the right mixture of sand and water to allow shaping a structure strong enough to stand firm until they complete their project.  This often involves a good bit of trial and error. They labor with focused attention to produce something that likely will be gone by the end of the day, a work of art neither they nor anyone else will ever own.  Clearly, the process is what they value more than the product.

Balancing elements, working for the joy of it, then letting go without sadness or regret…a lot to learn in an afternoon spent at play.  I hope we can channel some of these same lessons as we go about the tasks that make up our days.

One year ago today:

Whatever we lose



  1. bobmielke

    Your posted photo brought a smile to my face this morning. I jogged a memory of a particular visit to Cannon Beach along the Oregon coast. I took a photograph of a little boy and his mom making repeated trips between their beach house and the spot on the beach where the tide washed the waves onto it. The little boy was pulling a tiny red wagon, loaded with sand from that beach house. When the two of them reached the water’s edge the little boy dumped his load of sand with great effort on his part, squatting down to lift one end of the wagon with all his might. He had completed his task, replenishing the ocean with his load of sand. The then looked up at his mom with a satisfied grin on his face and grabbed her hand. It was time to return to their home for another load. 🙂

    • Bob, thanks for sharing that sweet story! I will think of that boy the next time I feel like Sisyphus. I just wrote a post today about repetitive tasks that can wear us down. That boy obviously found joy in what he was doing, and I’m sure his Mom enjoyed his joy, as did you – proof that a good attitude has multiple benefits!

      • bobmielke

        Kids don’t know how to get bored. Ask any mom & dad how their kids ask for the same book, the same movie, the same story be told over & over. They delight in the simplest things, like the wrapping used for their Christmas gift instead of the gift itself. Kids are blessed to come out of the box innocent, unafraid and with a smile on their faces.

        • Bob, that’s so true – we often laugh about how the simplest gifts at Christmas are the biggest hits. One year I remember watching the younger kids, after opening all sorts of expensive and impressive gifts, spending hours playing with these little rubber “super balls” that you can get at any dollar store. And they do love repetition. The best picture books are written as much for parents as kids, because the parents will be reading them OVER and OVER. 😀

  2. Susan

    Aha ha ha ha ha! I remember a project that I was once doing at work that seemed to involve coming in, in the morning, re-writing a document, submitting it to management, and then going home. The next morning, management would tell me that they’d changed their strategy, and I’d start in with re-writing the same document. It went on for about two or three weeks that way. I thought I was living Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day,” but now I’ll think of that as my “Sandcastle Period!”

    • Oh man, I would have a terrible time being patient with that for very long. I would have been tempted to turn in a document with lots of blanks with the words “fill in today’s strategy here” in italics above the blanks. 😀 Of course, I would have been out looking for a job the day after that. Don’t you just love that movie Groundhog Day? I need to watch it again soon. I hope you have a nice rest before your next “Sandcastle Period.”

  3. raynard

    Julia I woke up to rain this morning( my dogs look at me and rolled their eyes.I’m on a picture project to help a neighbor with a family function. ( is this the part where i sing , it’s beginning to look like Christmas? I digress. Down toward the beaches are getting crowded this way might try the mountains on my next Cannonball Run. Sent you a email about this blue velvet cake I might be baking for our church’s upcoming potluck.. be blessed

    • Thanks for the heads up Raynard, I’ll check my email right away. You don’t even want to know what a disaster my inbox is. It was rainy here last night but mostly dry by now after a day of hot sun. The mountains are sounding good about now with the temperatures approaching 90 tomorrow. Maybe your dogs are thinking they can’t catch a break again until fall – it will either be HOT or WET outside!

  4. I hope many parents read this post and take to heart the importance of play being a child’s work Julia. Well posted my dear 🙂

    • Thank you Pauline! I understand that truth more each time I watch a child at play.

  5. Sheila

    Oh, the hours that go into building those structures, the creativity, and the rewards of completion. I have often seen these remaining remnants at days end after the waves have cleaned the shoreline one more time. The pleasure remains long after. The tiredness of those little “builders” probably puts them to sleep…. dreaming of tomorrow! 🙂

    • Sheila, I figured you would see your share of masterpieces from the comfort of you own (beachfront) home! I imagine those kiddos do some serious sleeping afterwards, giving their parents a nice break. Just another perk of beach time!

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: