|A sand composed entirely of the gemstone peridot; the green-sand beach in Hawaii|
On the other, there is the big picture. Sand covers large parts of some deserts (although not as much as folks tend to think). And sand is a major component of our shoreline systems.
Traveling along the rocky shoreline of Oregon, I wasn't thinking much about sand, but that changed when I saw how much sand influenced the topography along the coast. It starts with the rivers: Oregon has a lot of rivers, in stark contrast to most of California, my home state. The rivers provide copious amounts of sediment to the coastal systems. In the first picture above, at Del Rey Beach, we were traveling across the vast beach formed by sediments from the Columbia River. Wide and flat. Featureless. But what happens when the wind picks up? And you can trust that the wind blows quite freely on the Pacific Northwest coast.
Some of the sand gets picked up and blown inland. That is when things start to get interesting...