If you’re like most people, the thought of an ebb tide brings a feeling of tranquility. Who doesn’t love to walk along a barren stretch of beach with the glittering hem of the ocean gently receding from shore? The eastern seaboard has been my second home through countless springs, summers, autumns and even winters. I know areas of it as intimately as my own backyard. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked on sunbaked beaches or sand cooled by twilight after the sun was swallowed by the vulture-beaked rim of the Atlantic.
I’ve picked up shells, stones, and pieces of driftwood, scattered souvenirs left by the lap and kiss of the receding tide. Although I find those strolls on the beach rejuvenating, the myths of yesteryear would have me believe differently.
In days of yore, people thought an ebb tide capable of draining someone’s spirit. Anyone who dwelled by the sea knew the receding tide would steal the spirit from the body. New ventures were best embraced when the tide was high. By the same token should someone fall ill, their soul was likely to depart with the ebb tide. Plantings of any kind were done when the waters were high so that their essence was not whittled away and carried off by the vanishing waters.
For today’s Mythical Monday, I offer a snippet from a short I wrote many ebb tides ago called Kin-Slayer:
I remember the ocean, glittering with a thousand faceted eyes as sunlight kindled diamonds on its surface, the scent of salt heavy in the air, twined with the black smoke of cooking fires and the reek of fish left to dry beneath the sun. My home was nestled in a simple village. Small and secluded, Ceadon squatted on a bluff overlooking the water, a ragged sphere of thatch-roofed hovels. She was a giddy perch, erected high on a pinnacle of wind-blasted rock. As children, E’ana and I often sat on the edge, watching the tide roll from shore as it carried our father and the other fishermen from sight. In the evening we would meet them on the beach, anxious to view the day’s catch…seaweed draped pots brimming with lobster and crab; nets so heavy they hugged the sand as the men unloaded a bounty of bluefish and tuna.
It was a simple life, fitting and welcome in those idyllic days of childhood. But childhood, like all things, fades with the passing of time.
Old wives’ tales and superstitions aside, there is something magical about an ebb tide. The next time you happen upon the soft lap of water on sand, take a moment to appreciate the inherent mystery in the song of the ocean. The symphony is as magnetic and ancient as the corridors of time.