Monday, October 04, 2004


No Robot

Disgruntled or no, I had a sand sculpture to get off. I'd told too many people about it to cancel it, as I felt like doing when I woke up Saturday at 0430. The low tide wasn't very low, and it came at 0530, so I had to start early in order to get the good sand.

When I got to the beach there wasn't a hint of sunrise. I worked for an hour in moonlight, but the first part of the operation doesn't require detail. I was just hauling sand to the building site, and moonlight is enough to show the difference between sand and seaweed so I could choose a place to put the sculpture.

Through all of this I was expecting judgment. I've been expecting this for a long time, actually; waiting for God to say "Larry, it's time to quit fooling around with these things and get on with the serious business of following Me." What that serious business was I didn't know for sure, but I know it involves many things I'm not good at, such as love.

We are, as followers of Jesus, adjured to let our lights shine from hilltops rather than from the inside of bushel baskets. Mine seems to be not only inside a basket, but under the bed in a room with the door closed and locked, and that inside a house that usually looks uninhabited. I just don't like being a showpiece of any kind.

Yet here I am doing another sculpture. On the beach. It's about as public as it gets, but I have to go where the materials are, and have learned to tolerate the attention I draw. I can even enjoy it sometimes because it's honest. I'm not here to be a show-off, and have done sculpture on days so nasty and cold that I'm the only one here except for a lonely lifeguard scanning the empty stormy surf. I also earn it. I haul the sand, I make the tools, I pack the sand. I plan and execute the sculpture and it stands or falls by my ability. There's no fakery involved.

About halfway into this one it was looking like a disaster. An ugly, overly complex combination of parts that all seemed to come from failed sculptures from years past. I even thought about just packing up and walking away, but the day was lovely and I could still use the practice.

There was also plenty of time. Normally at this time of year I have to work fast, which brings its own potential for mistakes. This day's early start meant I had time to think about what I was doing. This sometimes is a problem in that too much time can lead to being very fussy and getting buried in excess detail.

The central problem of making sculpture is to make it look like a sculpture instead of a cluster of parts. The key to this is to have some patience, to look instead of cut, but not look too long. The key to patience is food. Normally I just sort of forget about this and low blood sugar defeats my concentration. The previous sculpture had been improved by eating more, which led to improved concentration.

You'd think eating was basic. I tend to get wrapped up in what I do. You'd also think that the Holy Spirit has better things to do than to help someone concentrate on a sand sculpture; this isn't exactly going to change the world. This is how it has worked out, and it worked again on this day. I kept eating, kept concentrating, and through use of detail carving and maintaining a good mental model of where the sculpture's parts were it turned out very well.

Near sunset the whole sculpture lit up like a lantern. This one had no top, just two vertical fins with slots that ended in open unsupported space. Sunlight flooded in, bounced around on the tawny sand and every feature glowed. It was spectacular, one of the sculptures that I didn't want to walk away from.

The next day I went to Metro Church with some friends. Afterward we had lunch, and I told them about the sculpture, how surprised I'd been that God seemed to care about this. Debbie looked at me and said "God delights in your presence."

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