To speak of the storied history of rock collection is to speak of an art like any other,: akin to painting as much as architecture. The rock has been integral to the garden longer than we’ve known. It fills spiritual and aesthetic space while also demarcating the tomato from potato. But what to say of sand? Barely arable and almost liquid, it’s got nowhere to go but out of itself. Different varieties, colors, finenesses, and finities. We look at the variety, the color; we feel the fineness, but we don’t know it as anything but itself. It can be textured with symbols or shaped into a vase, but it may not stand alone as the rock. For now we’re stuck with taxonomies of sand and incidental desert, but the Stonehenges and God’s Fingers of the world are stuck in time. Even as Darwin’s Arch collapses, it remains.
To see a stone in a garden is magic. A spirit and personality all of its own, a name or pedestal for its leisure. It stands guard over the entire garden, watching the grass grow. It’s ready to be sculpted, carved, to remain a rock, but a rock made in our image. Sand in a garden strikes us like a bad game of golf. It’s a bunker, somewhere you’d only go hiding in war. A zone for the apocalypse, a rigid space holding you in your place. It tends to envelop rather than differentiate. You’re stuck there and punished, you can only swing yourself out, until you’re out among the rocks.
The rolling stone gathers no moss, they say. At least the stone can choose to roll. The swirling sand has little chance, so easily pushed around by its fellow elements. Each individual grain in itself will not stand for long even though they all rest together. Some stones roll, others collect tolls, others are made into bowls, but they’re still stones. Is sand still sand when it’s melted into glass, when it’s put into sandbags? It so willingly takes on these new rock-like identities, to have its sandness deferred.
The rolling stone can rock and roll, but sand just lays in a lull. The rocking and rolling of a ship; the rocking and rolling of a musician. It’s the ship that rocks, the musician who rolls. It’s not the tide rolling the ship or the groove rocking the musician. The ship and musician are in control, unlike the self-cannibalism and implosion of sandpaper. Sandpaper grates down to make everything more like itself, bearing the burden of rockiness to claim more sand. The sandpaper is in control so there may be more sand out of control. It shaves back rather than pressing on.