The Sands of Time

I grew up in Southern Ontario, a very long way from tides. So despite having lived on the coast for about 25 years now, tides still feel magical to me. They encapsulate something about the experience of time and place that I think is important for Heritage as well.

On Sunday we celebrated a friends 40th birthday at Sinah Sands. Its just there, north of Sinah Lake in this satellite image of Langstone Harbour from Google Maps. Only it isn’t just there most of the time, its only there at low tide. We arrived at about 11 am when the surface had dried enough to lay out picnic blankets and left at 4 when the tides were nearly back to those picnic blankets. By the time we had moored at the marina, the sands had disappeared again.

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Something about the limited time added to the adventure, and seemed particularly appropriate for a 40th celebration, as the curmudgeonly member of the party was keen to point out.

One of the entertainments of the afternoon was sandcastle building. As a child, I built sandcastles on the beaches of the Great Lakes, but tidal sandcastles are a completely different experience.

The castle we built this time, was very similar and in almost the same location as last time we were here, three years ago.  In both cases it was instigated by the same man, in both cases he exhorted us to build it high enough that it wouldn’t be washed away by the tide. The futility was part of the fun.

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In fact, when most people abandoned it, as the tide was taking it, a small group of children became even more excited. Realising that it really was a lost cause just added to the fun, and they worked harder than ever to shore it up till the very last minute.

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So how does this help me think about Heritage issues? Time is complex, important things aren’t always there. The limitations of time can be invigorating, the pleasure of working on something disappearing can be intense. Despite the fact that every time our friend has built a castle strong enough to withstand the tide it has been washed away, he does it every time he visits. In a sense the castle he builds does outlast the tide. The interaction of memory, effort, and place create a different type of endurance.

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