Press Talk: Vancouver man builds sand castles in the sky

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — Let's be honest. All of us — one way or the other — are building sand castles in the sky.

We're reaching for something special to achieve, a goal that will not only help us but help those around us, our community. And if we're still being honest, like those sand castles, a new day often washes away much of what we've done.

But, hey, we're pretty tough so we get back at it. Because tomorrow always brings us another opportunity, another chance.

And like the day before, this new day will almost always throw up hurdles. I know that happens to me. Now, some of my friends have told me they see my critics as those hurdles.

"I've been reading your column," a good buddy and former top newspaper editor wrote me. "You have to get out of town?"

He knew I had headed to Florida for a few days. He also knew I had been taking some heat for more than a few of my columns.

I was bemused by his comment. We both know journalists have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That doesn't mean we love it, mind you. We simply accept it. Plus I view my critics as helpful, not as hurdles. If you can get past their sometimes bitter tone, there is perspective in their phrases.

That being said, getting away from it all for a few days is invigorating. I call it getting to my warm place. And luckily my warm place is really a warm place:

Florida.

So a few days ago, I packed three pairs of shorts and headed south. In a few hours I found myself walking the white sand on Fort Myers Beach. And — please refer back to the beginning of my column — I ran into a bunch of guys from across the country competing in an annual sand castle-building contest. Now here's the marginally strange part. One of the competitors is from Vancouver. What the …

Bert Adams is a master sand sculptor who lives in our fair city. He found his way down to this beach. Hey, when it's 38 and raining where you live, 80 and sunny makes sense.

But how does one get from dumping a bucket of wet sand on the beach — like we all have done — to becoming a competitive sand artist? Bert had been laying brick for a living when he realized his tools would work well for sand sculpting. He entered a contest in California and won.

He began to enlist his friends and teach them how to do it.

In 1995 he moved to Vancouver and worked for an electronics firm. Sand sculpting was still a hobby. Then a nonprofit organization asked if he would help them put on a sand-sculpting event. The concept took off and he now organizes sand-sculpting events — including one in Portland — for a living. Bert never looked back.

"It's (always) a great day at the beach. Where else can you work hard, play hard and have something really good at the end of it?" he said.

I thought a lot about what Bert said. It sounds a lot like our personal lives. It also sounds a lot like what we do in the news business. Work hard, play hard, have something good at the end of the day.

And who ever gets it exactly right? Not us. But like sand sculpting, a new day brings a new beginning. And promise that it will be better than the day before.

In some ways I guess we're all building sand castles in the sky.