the tide


I have been walking along this stretch of coast for hours. The sun beats down on the deep sand as I clamber over driftwood and boulders engraved with orcas and round moon-like faces. I have watched the water being drawn back into the blue mass, exposing rock and glistening emerald seaweed until that writing body is nothing more than a thin line of foam, crashing sapphire on the horizon. Drawn by vibrant seastars, I venture out onto the gleaming stones that were completely submerged less than an hour ago. Fish dart from rock to rock through golden pools and I wonder if they are always here or whether they are the unlucky few who missed the tide today and will spend the next six hours in a puddle dodging crabs and birds. When the sea recedes, hauled back by the force of the sky, it opens a different layer of the universe. The change travels through the breadth of the air, the shades and hues of shadow, the scents on the breeze, and the resonance of the landscape as if the tide is a harmonic motion—a single note that contains many frequencies but nevertheless is heard as a single, cohesive sound.  The reverberations travel across land, through forests, and deserts, always reaching for the far-off skyline. If you listen, you can feel it, the ephemeral power is wielded like a whisper in your ear. Long ago it was believed that no creature could die anywhere on earth while the tide ebbed; such was the far reaching power of its push and pull, its give and take. If you listen you will feel the breath against your ear, the coastal draft that steals across landscapes with its siren melody. I can feel far away in the desert as the sky turns shades of gray, like a soft reflection of the smooth granite boulders surrounding our camp. A sultry tinge of pink clings to the distant hills on the horizon. A diamond hangs above the dusky dark peaks, ephemeral and shining. Mars rises. We will watch its passage across the sky all night among the geometric shapes of constellations. As the sky darkens, the twinkling lights go from diamonds on cobalt velvet to the sun shining through a black, moth-eaten shroud. The desert is alive with sound; birds croon lyrical chants, bats awaken and sweep from their caves and crevices, foxes call to each other in welcome. I wait for the inevitable silence that falls over the forest at home and it does not come. The voices of the desert echo through the canyons and plains while the stars dance across the sky all night, their motion as rhythmic and constant as a song. These bright lights in the darkness are the notes meandering across the page. The quiet comes just before the dawn, a silence filled with both anticipation and a resolute calm as if the song has reached its natural conclusion, lulling the land to sleep, readying for the next tide.  As I scramble around coastal headlands, hopping from boulder to boulder with the waves lapping at my feet, I am keenly aware when the tide shifts. The rhythm of the cerulean waves changes from a methodical ripple into an insistent and rising surge. The water crashes against the rocks like thunder. The sea chases the shore at an increasing pace until it presses in close, a crescendo swell cresting in a crashing wave that withers away, seeping into the sand.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. David Sudmeier says:

    Beautifully written. I just returned from the Atlantic coastlines of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina…and while they possess beauty, they can’t compare with the raw natural features of our Pacific shore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. inwildness says:

      The pnw is truly one of a kind!


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