Friday, January 11, 2008

Lessons in the tide

It occurred to me this morning, as my husband's departure for work was delayed for the third day in a row by high tide over the road, that it would be wonderful if I could live my life with the same insouciance that I view the tides.

I remember the first REALLY REALLY high tide we experienced in our island home, which sits a mere 15 feet above sea level (tides here range from -3 feet to a little over 13 feet). The tides here are highest in deep winter, which is also when we get extreme barometric low pressures, which in turn make for higher tides than normal.

So on the morning in question, I woke at around 5:30, and when I looked out the window the tide had completely inundated our driveway. We had moved a lot of boxes full of books and magazines into the garage the previous day, and when I went out to the garage to check, the tide, already under all of our cars, had begun to seep under the garage door.

I woke my husband and daughter, who began moving the boxes into the house, and for some reason I went into the laundry room and lifted the opening that goes down into our crawlspace, hoping, I think, to be reassured that the tide would not be coming up and warping our floors.

I remember being horrified to discover that the stool we used to step down into the crawlspace was floating only inches from floor level, and I remember creeping into the living room and sitting down, trembling with fear that the house would be swept away. When the critical boxes had been moved, by which time the tide had already begun to recede, my husband came in and sat across from me.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

I explained my fear, and he in turn explained that the house was designed for the tide to rise and fall beneath it, adding two important features that I hadn't really understood before. The tide, he reminded me, is always coming or going; it never stays at its highest point for more than a few minutes before it begins to recede.

And the tide is not a flood, passing through, sweeping all before it: it is simply a rising and a falling. And indeed, later in the day when I discovered my keys were missing, I tracked them down into the crawlspace. They had fallen out of my chest pocket when I peered over the edge, but had simply dropped through the water to the sand below and were easily retrieved.

Our emotions, thoughts and feelings, and the events that can trigger them, are really very much like the tide: much as I want to hold onto the good ones, and shrink back from the bad ones, each, like the tide, only holds for a moment or two and then recedes. Where I get into trouble is when I try to hold on; how much better it would be if I could view their passing with the same equanimity with which I now view the tide.

Oh, I think, it's here again; time to accomodate or celebrate or photograph as the moment suggests, for surely, like a patch of sun or the shadow cast by the light of a passing car, everything will shift in a moment or two. I've learned as a photographer that the perfect moment of light will shift and the time to capture it is now. And I've learned as a shore-dweller that the tide will subside, and with it the fear of loss and change.

And now, if only I could integrate that knowledge across the spectrum of my life, how much more attuned I could be to the lessons of the moment!


Unknown said...

Amen, Sister!

March said...

good place!

James Behrens, OCSO said...

I love your writing and your photographs.