Today is my daughter’s birthday. Fifteen. La quinceañera. She is one of my heroes. A heroine. She helped me out of quicksand a couple years ago. We were looking for water in a desert canyon. The river that snaked along the sandy canyon floor was choked with fine silt that would clog our water filter. So we looked for a spring that gave clear water, filtered through natural sandstone. I had been there once. Thirty years before. Rumor was it still flowed.
We saw evidence of the spring before we saw the spring itself. The clear water swirled and mixed with the muddy river water. One side dark. One side light.
We had to cross the river. My daughter was next to me when I stepped off the gravel bar and onto the sand at the edge of the river. Wet sand. Solid.
I took another step and sunk up to my knee. My own effort to extricate myself pitched me forward and my other leg went in.
Both legs. Caught. I shifted my weight to one leg and pulled with the other. The sand tightened, and when I shifted my weight again I only sunk deeper. I tossed the canteens back to my daughter—to free my hands. But my hands were useless there. I was now nearly up to my hips in quicksand.
I had always wondered how a person gets caught in quicksand. Inattention? A poor choice? Recklessness? I was guilty of all these in that moment.
I thought it would never happen to me. But there I was. Caught. Sinking. The sand sucked and pulled the more I tried to lift my legs out. The paradoxical Chinese finger trap.
My daughter dropped the canteens on the gravel bar and came back. She leaned out. I leaned in and she grabbed my hand. Her hand—her own strength—allowed just enough leverage that I could slowly pull myself back to the edge of the quicksand and crawl out.
I don’t wonder anymore how a person gets caught in quicksand. It happens quickly and for various reasons—some still unknown to me. My daughter didn’t ask “what happened?” or “why?” or “how?”
She just helped when I was sinking.
Thanks. And Happy Birthday, Mary.