It’s been more than a single season since J and I went walking at Revere Beach last October, so this past weekend we took the Blue Line to Wonderland, where we walked up to Kelly’s Roast Beef, watched seagulls beg for bits of our lunch, then walked back toward the heart of Revere Beach, where the remnants of the New England Sand Sculpting Festival are slowly deteriorating.

Ouroborus:  Life, rebirth, and stuff

Although I’m familiar with ice sculptures, I’m new to the sand sculpting scene. When I learned from newspaper coverage that this year’s festival had happened over the weekend of July 16 through 18, I figured J and I would have to wait until next year to check out the local sand artistry. Thanks, however, to a glue-based fixative that protects the sculptures from the drying effect of the sun and the erosive power of wind and rain, these sculptures stay on display, slightly the worse for wear, for several weeks after the festival.

I can’t say I’ve ever made much out of beach sand other than a soggy hole or two, so I can’t imagine how sand-sculptors make such elaborate structures with the stuff. From reading about the festival, I know that this particular sand is trucked in from Hudson, NH: apparently Revere Beach sand isn’t the proper consistency for towering sculptures. I know, too, that none of these sculptures contain any internal structures or supports: they are constructed entirely of sand, water, and a huge dollop of creativity. Even when sprayed with a fixative, sand sculptures are an ephemeral medium: like sand mandalas, these works of artistry don’t last long.

Detail from It's a Small World

Because we headed to Revere Beach a full week after these sculptures were created–and because there had been several nights of drenching rain during that time–J and I weren’t expecting much from whatever leftovers might remain. We were surprised, then, to see so much detail had remained on several of the sculptures, our outing feeling a bit like a trip to Egypt, where the grandeur of a ruined Sphinx or pyramid inspires you to wonder what the structure looked like in its heyday.

It’s interesting to contemplate crumbling sand sculptures on a beach visited by working-class folks whose bodies are seldom look very sculpted themselves. Walking along Revere Beach before or after a belly-bursting lunch at Kelly’s Roast Beef, you see folks who for the most part can’t afford gym memberships, Botox, or liposuction. These are folks whose bodies, like my own, have settled and sagged under gravity’s influence; these are folks who are too tired from full work-weeks to spend much time or energy fighting the Battle of the Bulge. Among the lithe youngsters and tattooed muscle men striding the sand at Revere Beach, you’ll see swim-trunked grandpas with pot bellies and heart surgery scars walking beside wide-middled women whose bikinis reveal stretch-marks and cellulite. These are battle-scars borne by full lives, not flaws to be hidden due to insecurity or shame.

Spheres of Influence

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives…and like sands through the hourglass, so do human bodies give way to gravity, slipping through the wasp-waisted present to land in a rounded heap called “it happens to all of us, eventually.” Sand can’t afford Botex or plastic surgery; sand doesn’t have the willpower for dieting or Pilates. Even a meticulously sculpted body will eventually sag: there is no fixative all the world over that can reliably and permanently fight the pull of time.

“Life’s a beach,” one bumper sticker warns, “and then you die.” The lesson of crumbling sand sculptures and sagging but sun-kissed beach bodies is to enjoy your days while you can, regardless of the shape you’re in.

Click here for a photo-set of images from this weekend’s trip to Revere Beach, including more photos of crumbling sand sculptures. Enjoy!