I first formed my suspicions about sand when l lived in a shack on the north end of Molasses Creek during the cold winter of 1977. Without a phone, laptop, or telegraph, I could only share my concerns with the south end of the island by sending daily smoke signals. (The latter was severely impeded after the great beaver attack of February 12th. Left with no matches, seven fingers, and a unique form of amnesia affecting my ability to recall methods of fire creation, I taught myself to blow glass. This enabled me to send messages in a bottle; all of which were returned open, edited, and ultimately ignored.)
The words I am sharing with you were initially recorded (via typewriter) on tree leaves, unused toilet paper, and fragments of a discarded kite. In order to power my electric typewriter, I ran 16 miles of drop cord from the last outpost in the village to the sand dune I called home. There were two electric outlets in the United States Post Office. One outlet was connected to 84,460 feet of yellow and orange drop cord running along the flattest section of highway in the state of North Carolina, the other did nothing. One enabled me to tell the story of sand; blowing, interminable sand. In the splendid isolation of the north, between soggy waters of Molasses Creek and yearly bear sights along Pamlico Gorge, I shared my suspicions of sands.
The sand wanted to retain its secrets. Like those attempting to unlock the mysteries of DNA or return clothes at Wal-Mart, sand doesn’t want to answer questions. Why are you in my shoes? Why are you in my bed at night? Why, when the wind blows from the south, do you fall like rain from the dunes above? Will you not speak? Why do you never go away? The sand would not say.
I discovered this conspiracy of silence from the moment I arrived in the north. Sand clogs typewriters. The changing east west gusts clogged the keys despite my herculean attempts to vacuum, brush, and suck the sand from every corner of the best typewriter Sears and Roebuck ever made. Click, stop, brush. Click, stop, brush. The simple process of typing the four letters “SAND” was interminably slow. Sand was the story and the story lay between the letters. However, after two days of thwarted typing, it became clear nature was forcing me to write my hand.
It was the aimlessness of sand that disturbed me. Water, for all of its fickle inconsistency, seemed to possess a defined sense of direction. Water respects the compass, sand knows north from south but simply doesn’t care. On Sundays, the sand blew through the shack from an easterly direction. Wednesdays, when the wind changed, so did the course of the sand. Why? There mysteries about the sand, perhaps just beyond the dunes, I didn’t know. One of the old fishermen who occasionally brought my junk mail up from the village insisted the sand possessed a curious relationship with the water. The water, according to the old man, worked in conjunction with the wind, to bring sand to the dunes. I remained suspicious. The man once told me of a blind man who came to his home in need of directions. Wouldn’t a blind man have planned his trip prior to his departure? I was suspicious of his story.
Isolated island dwellers, even those writing about sand, still receive junk mail. By last count I am on at least five mailing lists, deaf dogs, injured parakeets, an organic blueberry farm in Botswana, the protected ponies grazing on former Minutemen III Missile Silos, and something related to reintroduced wild wolves who now hunt humans. Each month I receive mildly traumatic letters telling me my habitat is declining and I’m being forced to seek refuge further and further in the wild. I didn’t know the dogs could type or had access to mass mailers. The wolf sending the letters, Bogwogem, seems quite fierce and committed to my destruction. I’m not entirely certain Bogwogem exists. His paw print look too neat for a wild animal. Needless to say, I’m suspicious. Not as suspicious as I am of sand but doubtful all the same.