Walking the Same Sand

The Body in BalanceAwesome Moments
Artwork by: Anya Dunaif

I stood looking out over what seemed to be everlasting blue. The sun was bright and the water glimmered as it reflected the light. I sat down in the sand looking over the edge of the dune and saw the waves of Lake Michigan lapping up onto the sand hundreds of feet below.

Near the shore was a small boat; it looked like a bathtub toy, white and blue, sharply mirroring the sun. I got up and read the sign at the top of the dune: “WARNING: STEEP BLUFF. 450 foot drop to Lake Michigan. Return climb is extremely exhausting. Do not run. Do not throw rocks.” I immediately asked if I could go down. My mom has vertigo, so she was scared just by the thought. My little brother was tired from hours of dune climbing, and convinced my father stay with him. Evidently, if I made the decent I would have to go alone.

Before I started my adventure down the dune, we saw a little girl about eight or nine years old who was almost finished climbing up the steep slope. My father went up to her and asked if the climb was hard. She was almost out of breath so it took her a while to respond. Eventually, she said that the climb was quite hard and that it took her two hours — maybe an exaggeration — and then patted her stomach saying, “I’m a little out of shape,” Then she started to laugh. I knew that if she could climb the dune, so could I.

When I got to the edge I wondered what was the best way to go down. I looked around me to get ideas. Some people were taking careful steps, watching their footing and digging their feet into the sand. Others were freely running down, kicking up sand as they went, occasionally falling and laughing full of joy. Some went down in a sitting position slowly inching forward and a few even slid on unfolded cardboard boxes, to keep their pants from getting dirty. I decided that I would walk. As I descended I started to move faster and faster, I was almost running when I was near the bottom. I felt as though I were falling and yet flying as I came closer to the lakeshore. The fact that I was alone did not bother me because I felt escorted by the essence of the dune.

“Climbing the dune connected people, and in turn expanded those connections outward.”

On the way down I passed an old man, who was on his way up the dune. He would climb up about a foot and then sit and rest for a couple of minutes before continuing the pattern. While he climbed, his wife (who was more agile) was yelling at him from higher up. I realized that for some reason both young and old felt that they had to climb the dune. Though climbing the dune was for the most part a solitary experience it connected people, and in turn expanded those connections outward; causing them to have connections that they otherwise would never have had. The connections were not necessarily physical, but rather mental and emotional. We did not need to speak to each other to express the mutual awe we felt when looking at the formidable and yet benevolent dune.

Once I reached the bottom I wished I had taken more time on my way down. The decent was so exhilarating. The heat seemed to press down on my shoulders. I wanted to jump into Lake Michigan and cool off. I looked out at the water and noticed the boat I had seen earlier was actually much larger then I had thought it was. My whole perspective had changed dramatically. Now everything was so calm. The whole world was enveloped by serenity. The light breeze, the soothing waves and all the dune climbers were unified within one central state of peace. The dune no longer seemed treacherous or frightening in any way. Though I was alone I felt as though I was accompanied by all the people who had ever climbed up and down the dune. We were all joined together by this one experience. I went to the lakeside dipped my toe in the water, and then started my climb back up the dune with all the others who had walked the same sand.

Anya Dunaif is going into eighth grade at Saint Ann’s School. She lives in Brooklyn with her parents and little brother. Anya likes painting, drawing, photography and film, plays the cello, and is a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group Student Company II.

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