I saw this article recently and am really fascinated by the photos in it (thanks to Michelle McGrane for bringing it to my attention).
It’s sand magnified more than 250 times so that we can see the different structures and colours of each grain – ‘unique as snowflakes’ the article says. And they are. Some are small, recognisable fragments of shell, others are little pieces of rock. And the colours are amazing too. Not the beige we normally associate with sand but blues and yellows and purples and reds. I don’t think I’d ever even thought about sand or what it might look like if we zoomed in on it before seeing this article. Fascinating stuff. You can visit the photographer Dr Gary Greenberg’s website here if you’re as intrigued as I am.
In a way, the photos made me think of the short story and how it does a similar thing – zooming in on a life or incident so that we can see everything in close-up, really getting to the heart of a situation. Perhaps that’s why these photos (apart from being beautiful) captured my attention – because I love to focus on the detail rather than the bigger picture. And, to me, that’s the value of the short story – it enables us to see the unseen world. To get up close, our noses pressed to the glass. It also enables us to imagine what the bigger picture may be, from the fragment of life we get to glimpse – and it is up to us as readers to make that link and to build that bigger picture in our imaginations. Much like these photos… the fragment of shell pictured hints at the full shell from which it came. It is the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm. And it’s there, in the short story as well as in a little, beautiful, colourful grain of sand.
The is beautiful. The analogy is beautiful, too. No wonder short stories from this author are pretty darned good.