the place where waves shake sand in circles


message in a bottle by jason kohThis is an old thought.

I wrote it for but that was a long time ago and I thought I would bring it here now.

the place where waves shake sand in circles

I was talking to Emily about doing this column. [Author Note: Emily was the editor who asked me to write the column.] And she said, “It’s about women and internet communication.” And I said, “Oh well I am a woman [no fresh comments about the name, I have a note from my gynecologist to prove it] and it is on the internet and anything I say is communicating so just by virtue of me writing it it is on topic, right?”

And Emily said, “Exactly.”

That made me feel really smart, like I had caught onto something maybe most people hadn’t. Emily is very charming though and with charming people, whenever I feel smart, I have this suspicion I might not really be smart, making me feel smart might just be what is charming about them. Hmm.

But here I am. And I can write anything in the world and it will fulfill the requirements of this column. Yay!

[Wow are you in trouble.]

I could really go crazy with this and tell you all about my bad hair day [I have a call in to my stylist right now and I saw her this afternoon already, that is how bad a hair day it really is] but what I keep thinking about lately is —

Messages in bottles.

The ones you throw into the sea.

I did that once as a kid, you know. Put a message in a bottle and threw it into the sea. Okay, really I sort of plopped it into the sea. I was a kid. I didn’t have much of an arm.

I don’t remember where I got the message in a bottle idea. Maybe in a movie. [Okay, not that movie, that was a terrible movie, can you believe the guy died? I was mad for days.] Or maybe in a fairy tale. I was a very romantic kid. Who spent a lot of time around very romantic grown ups. And whenever I said I wanted to do one of these romantic things one of them would think it was so amazing [these grown ups were not around kids much so if you were a kid it was real easy to be amazing] they would make sure it happened. So one of the grown ups helped me hunt up a bottle to put a note in. And helped me with my note [this was way before kindergarten, I needed that help, I was pretty small]. And then I threw the bottle out in the water.

My throw was not very good. The bottle kind of thunked too close in the really shallow water that goes back and forth on the sand so pretty soon the bottle was not in water at all. And it took a few more tries. But finally that bottle was really out in water.

I asked the grown up if it would really float far far away and the grown up said sure, absolutely. But I knew grown ups lied all the time just to be nice to kids and probably it wouldn’t, that was a weak throw and probably it was just tossing on sand a couple feet under where the waves shook sand pieces in circles.

I didn’t care though. I was a romantic kid. That bottle would stay down there in the circle place a long time probably, but sooner or later it would get loose. I could see it in my head breaking free and floating far far away. So I figured it would. Or it would end up here on the same beach one day. And someone would think it came from far far away which was just as good. They would think it got to this beach fast, too, because we put the date on it.

Then I wished I’d lied about where we were sending it from. Or not put that down at all. Because probably it was coming back to this beach soon. And we put the place on that note.

And then I went home.

The web to me is like that. Millions of notes in the sea.

I don’t remember what all I put on that note I threw into the water. I do remember I put my name on it. And the date. And the place. [The place wasn’t my idea and I was sorry about that right off when I figured out that bottle was coming back to the same beach. Dumb grown ups. But whoever saw it would think it was from far away at first and that was good. I thought everyone was romantic like me. Kids think like that. That everyone is like them.] And then there was the important part. The part I can’t remember. The message part. Which probably I have blocked from my mind because probably it was something I thought was real romantic then that now I would think is sappy and would be embarassed to admit. Or maybe I do remember it and am just not telling. I am like that.

Really what that note said, though, was “Here I am, are you out there? Hello.”

I’ve spent my whole life saying that. That is what writers do. Every day. We are seeking something. Someone. A voice in the void. It is not a reflection of us, really, that we seek. It is more like we are looking for someone we recognize. We do not know how we will recognize them when we see them. We just know we will. And we think they will recognize us, too.

I think all people do that. I think writers are just a little more zealous in their efforts.

We are sending a signal.

We never know if it gets through. But —

We are romantic people. We can see that message in our minds, breaking free of the place where waves shake sand in circles. We can see it getting out. And the message can be fact. And the message can be fiction. But the message is always —

“Here I am. Are you out there? Hello?”

What we forget sometimes is, while we are so busy sending signals, we have to listen for them too.

I try to remember to do that.

On beaches I look for bottles.

I haven’t found one yet.

Not one with a message in it.

I keep looking.


where this came from :
that is from seemaxrun thoughts 2002

originally published on

where the art work comes from :
that is message in a bottle by jason koh

5 Responses to the place where waves shake sand in circles

  1. Z

    I really enjoyed this essay. I’ve never put a message in a bottle, but I have tied them to helium balloons and let them sail away.

  2. You, Max, can flat out write… and that is coming from a man named Leslie!

  3. max

    Thanks, Leslie. [Do you have a note from your doctor?] You are a spiffy writer too. I especially like the story about Pete and story about the red velvet cake girl. And the holiday chores story. That is classic.

  4. Beautiful analogy. I did the message in a bottle too when I was a kid. Tons of them as we spent a lot of time at the beach.
    I never found one, though. What I did find was a handmade broom that washed ashore. I wish I’d kept it. It was made from slivers of bamboo and had been though an oil spill or something, it was full of tar. Probably why I didn’t keep it. But I spent that whole week looking at that broom, wondering which Carribean island it came from and how this person was getting along without their broom.

  5. Pingback: questions with no answers « celluloid blonde

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