The Ebb and Flow of Low Ebb.

I have had resistance to sitting down with the laptop and tapping away on the keyboard, which would have enabled the transition of the cacophony of thoughts from my head to the screen. I am a creature of habit; these blog posts are always typed straight from my head to the virtual page and then edited, spell checked, etc. My scribblings and poems and musings are done by hand & pen and often speedily with no filter into my increasing collection of notebooks.

I never second-guess my scribblings but will also engage in a self-inflicted battle between the urge and my resistance to write. I have yet to consistently remember to keep a notebook by my bed to jot down the words that capture the snatches of thoughts that ride on my sleep drifts. I rarely remember them in the morning time despite my misguided certainty that I will. It is in the words of Samuel Johnson “The continuing triumph of hope over experience.”

July 13th 2020 was the date that Low Ebb first got noted in a notebook after a trip to the Guillamenes, when the tide was very low with the gnarly rocks and kelp revealed. On that day I wished it to be other. The beauty of my favoured swimming spot is that there is always enough water to swim in, to be out of one’s depth and to feel the vastness that surrounds you no matter what tide you happen upon.

I can’t seem to keep track of the tides, although the mathematical requirements for doing so are not that taxing. I am somewhat allergic to looking them up and it is likewise with the weather forecast. So I travel in hope, the hope that the tidal waters will be enough and that the sea will be full and that the seascape will match my mood on any given day at my irregular appointed swimming hours. Unsurprisingly this often is not so, but my delight when it is is worth the hopeful travel, with any brief disappointment experienced on my first visual encounter on the days it is not is usually being quickly dispelled.

The sea has rarely failed me in her deliverance of herself to me, and me to myself. I can just sometimes be slow to catch the gift of the moment. Even on those wild days in the middle of winter or a typical Irish summer when swimming is not an option, the sea and our beautiful coastline is a balm for my spirit.

Since I got back to the sea on June 8th there have been many swimming days, and occasionally multiple swims a day and there also have been beach days which provide a different kind of succour. The ocean’s power of healing appears infinite. But on that swim day of July 13th the sea level was as low as it can be, and access meant a long climb down the ladder and an inelegant flinging of myself backwards into the water. I felt cross. That’s a bit sedate, I felt angry cross. I wanted the sea at least to be right for me when everything else was off-kilter.

I didn’t want the water to reflect back my state of being, I didn’t want my low ebb confirmed by the tide. I didn’t want to see the gnarly lacklustre rocks with their static limpets and barnacles. I didn’t want to feel bound to keep my being on the surface so as not to have fleeting leggy tangles with the not-so-underwater forest of kelp. I didn’t want to have to swim through twenty yards of this marine melee of seaweed red and brown to reach the real open water. I didn’t want to search the horizon for sighting of a cormorant, I didn’t want this to be a means of my connection with my brother John. I didn’t want continuing bonds with the dead; I didn’t want to be sea-dancing for two on the stage of my memory, with the stage setting all wrong. I didn’t want any of this and I most certainly didn’t want a bloody calm low tide that I couldn’t pummell into submission.

I wanted my brother John swimming beside me and I wanted a high tide. I wanted an immediate depth of water that gives comfort when my spirit and heart are in a low place. Neither was forthcoming. I had become acclimatised to the water temperature, (and the temperature was up) so I couldn’t be shocked into emptying my head. I waited for some sort of sea swell to release me from my mood. I had to swim out farther than my comfort zone of lazy swimming dictates to be alone enough to shout to the sky and seek the hope that my mind would be silenced by my eye’s gaze.

Some days, even the view between the sea and the sky are not enough and the space it normally creates for my grief and my yearning just doesn’t manifest itself. This was one of those days and they are not strange days. I am familiar, if still uncomfortable with these feelings. Full of gripes, I swam back and sat on the concrete, squinting a scowling glare down between the rails, from under my hoody towel, at the rocks and the tide that had caused such offense to me. Just sitting there feeling tired, feeling frustrated that I was not open to the reprieve that a swim normally grants me.

With the sun’s heat drying me and having been unable to run down & discharge my battery of grief feelings and deposit them for a while in the ocean, I had no choice but to sit. Sit with the chatter of happy swimmers and squeals of cold excitement providing the backing track to my presence. I had to acknowledge that I was tired: tired of grief, grieving, missing, yearning, longing and some.

Some days (usual, everyday days) are harder than others. Grief has a rhythm of its own and is not as predictable as the tide. This day required from me that I sit with what felt like futile anger. It required me to bat away the sunbeams carrying heat and light. It required me to ignore the iridescent beauty of those calmly stoic rocks. It required me to wait for my quiet tide of love to carry me along in the ebb and flow again.

So I did and I tried not to scowl at any friendly faces and when I came home, I began the writing of this.

"When will the tide come in?"

Sea dancing for two
on the stage of my memories
against the backdrop
of desolate rocks
no longer awash
with silken tidal waves,
draped in seaweed red and brown
and a dark shade of green
not often found on land.

Stripped back of
their watery cloth,
essentials still gathered
in the crags and crannies,
fissures wide
open to seeing eyes.
in sea tendrils and salt water.
Wanting hopeful insulation
from daily reactions 
to less fluid movement
in my life on land.

Small, urchin like
spine like emotions
clinging, limpet like
to an immovable force.
Stuck or holding fast
dependent on the vagaries
of my mind.
Undecided awaiting
the big reveal on another day.

Submerged, rocks appear
to house more life.
Successors to 
Godswana, Laurentia and Lapetus
a trinity of 
ancestral lands and oceans
just shy of half an aeon
they are ever present
in a landscape formed by
fire and ice.

and cutting sharp,
re-paying in kind
my unkindly disturbance
of their watery veils.
Majestic in their grounding
I know of only
the ones close to shore.
I circle swim around them
at low tide
and swoop over them when full
Longing for the days
when low ebb
still carries me
to where I need to go.
So I can be Queen of
Underwater castles again.


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