Entropy, gravity, perpetual motion, and patterns in the sand.


Morning Light, Newgale – Ruth Coulson

After storm Ophelia hit West Wales, I went for a walk on the beach. The council were out with their diggers putting the beach back on the beach instead of it being two feet thick across the road. Large pebbles still lay where they’d been flung across the car park, the grass banks were flattened by salt water, and seabirds swam happily across the campsite on the far side of the road. True to God’s holy ordinance, the parking-ticket machine still worked.

I pressed the green button for my free thirty minutes, which allows me to march down to a particular rock, play in some rock pools for five minutes, and march back again. I could spend a pound and have a relaxing hour, but that would mean putting my hand in my pocket and that only happens when I need a dog poo bag, a tissue, or to run my fingers over my worry stone, a smooth, dark green pebble with black bands that I picked up on this very beach some years ago and which never leaves my pocket.

When I say play in some rock pools, I mean sit on a rock while the dog plays in some rock pools, but she has enough fun for both of us so it amounts to the same thing. Anyway, Storm Ophelia had sculpted the beach in new and exciting ways. The wooden boards put down for wheelchair access had been rearranged to provide a new and puzzling way for the able and disabled to access the beach that resembled a disjointed roller-coaster. There were rock pools where I’ve never seen rock pools before, larger and deeper than usual, much to the delight of said pup, but the acres of smooth, flat, untrammelled sand and the bastions of ancient cliff were the same as ever, as if Ophelia had merely passed by unnoticed.

The patterns left by the receding tide as it ebbs and flows delight me. No sculptor with the finest tools could emulate the perfect symmetries and intricacies of nature’s designs, and the sea is an old master. The other day I saw three sandbanks that had been undercut by the tide and the stream that empties onto the beach. Each sandbank was finely and deeply perforated by perfectly round holes of varying sizes where pebbles had been tossed into the air by the surf and had come down, plonk, onto the soft sand. Needless to say, I had forgotten to take my camera. I would blame this on God too but in all conscience I can’t. I’m forgetful.

The storms of life may rearrange our personal sand sculptures, but natural entropy ensures life’s beaches remain the same: flat and flawlessly smooth. We struggle to be something more than we are, to take that perfect photograph, paint that jaw-dropping painting, write something of literary genius, or attain the highest merit in our particular field, but the extraordinary within us is hidden by the mediocrity of human flesh and eventually extinguished by that same entropy. Dust to dust.

What is the point of this rambling? I think it’s the indomitability of the human spirit. We are totally at the mercy of whatever nature, God, call it what you will, throws at us without conscious thought, gravity will always hold us down, and entropy will eventually grind us to the most infinitesimal particle, and yet we never stop striving. We are always out there after a storm shovelling away the beach from the road, attempting to defy gravity and entropy, and making our own ephemeral patterns in the sand. We are the perpetual motion that is life.

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6 thoughts on “Entropy, gravity, perpetual motion, and patterns in the sand.

  1. First of all, a beautiful painting, Ruth. The tones and textures of the sand are superb.
    Your post caused me to consider two things; learning to ride a bike, and secondly, my personal writing journey. If it doesn’t work out, try again, and again
    Yes, there is always that ‘entity’ out there, threatening to knock us back a step, but the hardier ones among us will always get back to the start line and fight on. Good post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tom. I still have the scars from riding my bike, or, rather, falling off it. I get knocked down all the time but, so far, I’ve always got up again. Words on a mental hospital ward my son was in briefly read ‘So far, you have a one hundred percent success rate at surviving.’ I often think of that.


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