To Live by the Tides

Photo by Giovanni Arechavaleta on Unsplash

Many years ago, on a work trip to Kenya, I spent a rare afternoon off, sitting on my hotel balcony, writing in my journal, trying to make sense of my experiences interviewing children with AIDS and their caregivers.

My heart was broken, and I spent a couple of hours writing it all out.

I had gone out to the balcony hoping to catch a breeze off the Indian Ocean. That didn’t happen, but the water sparkling through the palm trees looked quite pretty, so I stayed.

When I looked up from my writing, the water had silently drained away, and all that was left was brown ook. The jet skis that had been bobbing at anchor an hour ago were now resting on the ground.

I found it alarming how silently it had stolen away.

But the man with the camel was still walking him up and down the beach selling rides to tourists, and there were still children splashing around in the pool, and I finally remembered the existence of tides and relaxed a little.

The quietness of it, the way it happened with no regard for whether or not anyone was watching I found deeply unsettling.

My only other experience with tides was on a trip to England with my parents when I was three. My aunt and uncle took us to the beach for a picnic.

We were having a lovely time when all of a sudden, my uncle sounded the alert.

“Tide’s coming in!” he shouted.

And we all grabbed something and ran to higher ground.

So I can be excused for thinking that every ebb and flow of the tide was announced, noted and acted upon. I thought maybe a bell would ring or a whistle blow. But it just happens.

I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere and witness that daily creeping in and out?

To know that at certain points in the day, parts of your world would be inaccessible? To have to bow to a greater authority than your human desires?

What would it be like to want to go for a ride on your jet ski when the ocean was a hundred yards away? What would it be like to have to time your picnics for when the beach was there and not under three feet of water? To know that you had to get back to higher ground or risk being cut off until the tide rolled out again?

I think it would make me more humble, more relaxed about my grand plans and schemes.

I do occasionally make plans that depend on fine weather.

Picnics in summer have to move indoors if it rains.

And in the winter, I always have one eye on the forecast and road conditions if I want to go anywhere by car.

But these are only occasional nods to the supremacy of nature. The tides are a daily occurrence with their own timing and authority.

So what’s a land-locked girl to do if she wants access to that kind of wisdom?

I do pay nominal attention to the shortening and lengthening of days. I’ve noticed that the crickets have started chirping at night and the geese are practising their flight formations.

But, of course, I can always flip on a light and ignore the darkness.

I can pretend that summer isn’t drawing to a close. These subtle changes only affect me if I choose to let them. Until that first snowfall, I can be in complete denial that seasons change.

I think maybe I’ll start to track the phases of the moon.

It won’t affect my daily life the way the tides would. But it’s more about noticing, I think. It’s about seeing that there are forces at work that are bigger than us.

And maybe, who knows?

Maybe I’ll discover a rhythm to my life that I hadn’t noticed before, one that’s tied to the rhythm of the moon. One that I can learn to rely on. One that will make me more humble, more relaxed.

I’ve been looking at the moon for the last several nights. The skies have been clear, and it shines so brightly. We are, according to the calendar I looked up online, in the last quarter. The New Moon will be on August 30.

I clearly have no idea what I’m seeing. I thought it was getting bigger… I see I have much to learn, much to notice.

Has this taking a moment to look at the moon, to try to notice the changes and situate myself in its cycle changed my life in any way?

It makes me happy to look, to say, “Oh, there you are!”

It’s bigger than me, and it changes whether I want it to or not.

That’s all to the good. More research will ensue.

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2 Responses to To Live by the Tides

  1. Tracy Bachellier says:

    I grew up on an island – Prince Edward Island – long before “The Bridge” when it was only accessible by ferry. Tides were just a way of life; never thought much of it. But yet our lives, in many ways, revolved around them. Tides were our time, our real clocks, our ebb and flow of island life. Funny, I never really thought of what it would be like to not live by the tides, until I read your post. Fascinating. All a matter of perspective, I suppose 🙂 And, of course, tides are intricately connected to the phases of the moon… xo

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