When I was eleven or twelve, my friends and I happened upon a tiny pool on a sandy beach. Not far from the shoreline, across a space about four feet in diameter, the water slid just over the surface of a bit of sandy mud.
When we stepped into it and played in it, it was only a foot or so deep. When you put a hand or foot under the mud, it would heal over your limb, and it made a hard sucking sound when you took it out.
It was a small batch of quicksand beside my backyard lake. We spent the entire summer in our bathing suits playing in this kiddie-pool sized wallow of mud. In real life, the danger of quicksand is that it will self-heal over your head, and you won’t be able to slurp your way to the surface again. Even if the pool were over your head, you would be able to wade / swim through it without sinking.
Because we knew it was a tiny bit dangerous, it held a strong lure for us. It was mesmerizing – like a lava lamp you could float inside. I don’t think we had other interests or hobbies that summer. I’m pretty sure we all had one-track minds when it came to the quicksand.
When we had to put on our school clothes and leave the lake-swimming days behind us to head off to sixth grade, we didn’t stay fixated on the quicksand for long. Soon, there were cute boys to distract us. There were classes, books (I discovered both Little Women and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley that year), there were more important things to do than lounging in a small pool of self-healing sandy mud.
When we went back one Saturday a few weeks after school had started, we couldn’t find our patch of quicksand. The lake and the autumn sun had devoured it in our absence.
There are fleeting, temporary things that we can enjoy, be glad to have discovered and experienced, and then let go. These are the things that make life rich and interesting. These are the experiments of self that keep us teetering on the edge of what-if.
I know I’m being a little dreamy and vague. But that’s okay. I’m crawling out of the quicksand, hosing myself off, and heading back to school.