April 15, 2022

Sight Unseen / Brandon A. Evans

The beach at the end of the world

Brandon A. EvansAbout 200 miles south of Perth, there is a tiny little nook of a beach where the gray-red rocks and bristly brush of the Australian continent yield to the might of the Indian Ocean.

At low tide, jagged tan isles crowned with wispy green stand in gashes over shallow waters striped so brightly with sapphire and sky that they seem to be shining iridescent from the white sands below.

It’s quiet there most of the time, a seclusion broken only by the rumbling, regular static of the waves. The beauty of the shore is held shyly by the steep walls that hug around its northern side.

Like so many of the great places in the world, pictures can’t do it justice.

At least, that’s what I gather from the pictures.

I’ve never actually been there and very likely never will be. Its sands are not waiting for my feet nor its vistas for my straining eyes.

In truth, it’s a place born of a question: if I stood at my front door—right on the welcome mat—what would be the most distant place on Earth that I could reasonably go? At 11,202 miles, that little beach would be it. To get any farther, I’d have to wade out beyond my height into the sea.

It’s the kind of thing you’d wonder about after a long day when you just wanted to get away from work and cell phone calls and, well, pretty much everything else.

It’s nice to dream.

That’s what everyone says anyway, and what we say to ourselves: It’s nice to dream, but now I have to get back to the real world.

Think of it: me, in Australia? It’s laughable if you knew me. I’m a person who rarely steps outside routine, let alone leaves the house without a familiar path and destination in mind. What business do I have with traveling to the other side of the globe?

Still, it holds a place on the little bookshelf of dreams in my mind. Fanciful things like having a house with secret passages or a wild animal as a pet.

To be sure, I’m not talking about the types of delusions that consume us—the kind that rely on impossible futures which create as much despair as does clinging to the regrets of an unchangeable past.

No, I mean the myriad of ones that free us, that open our horizons.

Those dreams are like snowflakes on Christmas morning: beautiful, darting and treasured. They are the thousand happy thoughts that serve as a solace in a fallen world.

And, since we don’t quite know the future, we can’t completely dismiss anything. It has to be admitted that while our craziest ideas may not often be the greatest, the greatest ideas are always crazy. They are wild, inventive and unforeseen: wonders of love and art and science and stories.

Our world would be barren of its greatest treasures if some person hadn’t stuck to some silly idea.

In that way, I do have a beach at the end of the world. So does everyone. A lot of them, in fact, of every kind and color.

Good.

The paths we walk are not all primrose. Our share of sorrows is at times more than it should be. Allowing ourselves to dream is not to prefer fantasy to honest suffering: it’s to defy it. To hold it back and keep cutting a way through.

Those hopes of ours may become dulled and burnished by cynical minds and the weight of time, but they cannot be destroyed.

It’s good to dream.

So cling to them. Smile at them. They are there for a reason.

And you never know: some dreams have a funny way of sneaking into the real world when we least expect it.

Kind of like the surprise of a sudden, salty breeze on a distant shore.
 

(Sight Unseen is an occasional column that explores God and the world. Brandon A. Evans is the online editor and graphic designer of The Criterion and a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield.) †

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