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  • Writer's pictureVanessa

The Dust of Stars

The Blog Post In Which Sand, Air and Water Inspire Deep Thoughts

I’m a child of the 80s. I wore translucent pink jelly shoes, watched Jem and the Holograms on TV, and “smoked” Popeye candy cigarettes.

I didn’t have trouble keeping myself entertained. I had Play-Doh. I had a Glo Worm. I had a Lite-Brite. That I ever learned to spell remains a wonder and a mystery.

One of my favourite objects of affection was my moving sand picture. Water, air, and various shades of coloured sand are combined between two clear glass plates. The edges are sealed and framed. When the picture is turned, gravity works its magic: the air bubbles float to the top, while the grains of sand trickle downward through the water, sneaking between the gaps in the air pockets, piling into beautiful, sweeping peaks of colour on the bottom.

I was captivated by this.

I don’t know what happened to my original sand picture. My jelly shoes grew too small, my Play-Doh dried up, and the bulb in my Lite-Brite died. I moved on - to high school, to university, to work, to marriage and to parenthood (the Play-Doh, at that point in my life, made a comeback).

When I came across a moving sand picture in a toy store while Christmas shopping for my kids last December, I added it to my own Christmas list (i.e., I “casually” mentioned it in a loud voice during dinner with my family).

Because my clan is skilled at reading my not-so-subtle hints, on Christmas morning I ended up with my first sand art in over thirty years.

I’m as enthralled with it as I was when I was a kid. I love watching the air bubbles shift, separate, and combine again as they rise. Up, always up. I love the gentle fall of the tiny solid grains, almost fluid in their descent. Down, always down. As they come to rest, they create a landscape of sensuous hills and valleys that’s different every time the picture is upended. There’s something about this ritual that speaks to my sensibilities. Maybe there are lessons to be learned here - lessons about balance, wholeness, and impermanence.

I made some pictures of the sand art, in my kitchen, on a sunny day last week. The sparkle of traveling sand and the dark wall in the background combined to create something almost cosmic - a swirl of galaxies through space and time. I’ve called this series The Dust of Stars.

Light bright, indeed.

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