May the sun bring you new energy by day; may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries; may the breeze blow new strength into your being; may you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life. Apache Blessing
I grew up with the rhythm of the tides. When I was a little girl, I observed them in the summer firsthand as the ocean was either pouring itself into the cove or pulling itself back out again in a constant steady motion, six hours in, six hours out, twice, every day. Before age twelve when we moved to the coast year-round, during the nine months of school, we lived fourteen miles “up river” in the shipbuilding town of Bath where we still felt the power of the tides as they worked their magic on the wide waters of the Kennebec River. I took this rhythm of in and out for granted, this draw to the outer world of school and friends and family, and this withdraw back in again to the deep sea waters of my own soul.
When I was in elementary school, we lived in a sea captain’s home on Washington Street just a block away from the river. Our house was huge and rambling, with an ornate front staircase and a steep one in the back by the kitchen, perfect for playing chase in huge upstairs- downstairs circles. We had seven fireplaces and closets big enough to host neighborhood club meetings and a full third story attic with a puppet theater, and rafters that our cat climbed into and a psychiatrist-looking couch that the McGinnis family had left for us when they moved out. Our old house held us all, four kids, two parents, three grandparents and a handful of country cousins who often spent the night in town with us. And this sea captain’s home that we all lived in was still spacious enough to be a dream playground for the under-twelve set. And play we did, hard and loud, in that attic dance hall of ours, and in the backyard and run-down carriage house where we carried out our pine cone wars. It was glorious, this outer social play-hard time. I reveled in it.
And I also reveled in the turning of the tide. After a hard play session or a full day of school, I retreated to the inner world just as the clams and the crabs and the barnacles do when the ocean covers them with its watery blanket. My room was in the front of the house and its two large windows offered me plenty of light. It also had a fireplace, and, like many of the seven, this one no longer functioned to keep the room warm, but that was okay because we had modern heat and the fireplace was made of slate and it became my perfect chalk board. I spent hours, or what seemed like hours at the time, playing school with my dolls or spreading the art supplies that my parents generously provided for me out on the hardwood floor, drawing and painting and breathing deeply and gathering myself together again in a grounded calmed-down package. I needed the quiet of high tide. I needed my own version of putter-play, of following my inner whims and callings.
I still do. I love my active outer play-hard-with-friends-and-Cam time. I love to host events at Joy Center and participate in the wonderful offerings that others create. I love to eat out and go to the movies and dance my spirit silly. I love to laugh hard with a group of people who are also laughing hard. I need this tide-going-out social time. It feeds my spirit. And, I also need my putter-play, my tide-coming-in time. I need spacious hours to reflect and write and roam in the woods alone. I need the quiet music of my own breath and heart. I need to go inward and listen to what really does bring me alive. It’s a lovely balance, and, like the tides I grew up with, it is always in motion.
And, right now, I am savoring three hours of inner-tide time, sitting in a patio chair on a sweet round deck under the shade of a maple at my friend Muriel’s house just blocks away from that sea captain’s home in Bath where I spent my childhood years. I am putter-playing with my journals and essays and poems. Actually we are parallel playing, Muriel and I. She is inside, typing away at her computer. Muriel, who lived for ten years beside Mom in a home on the ledges of Fish House Cove, is working on two projects, one, a compilation of journal articles about Mom’s town of Phippsburg that Muriel wrote for various publications during this ten year span and the other a collection of personal recollections about the cove. We designed this weekend of creative play a few months ago when I was in Maine just after my mother had died. We are kindred spirits, writers and hikers and lovers of good food and fun, and it is my mother who brought us together and that is a special bond. And, like my mother, we are drawn to the ocean, to its power and its salt-air wind and to its steady rhythm of in and out. And soon, as the sun reaches its high point in the sky, the tide will turn, and we will be ready for something else, something active and social.
This afternoon, we are driving downriver, following the banks of the Kennebec to its wide ocean mouth, to Hermit Island, which is actually more of a peninsula than an island, for an afternoon of hiking along its shoreline and through its inner trails. We will tromp along and chat of our projects and envision our dreams and I’m sure we will speak of my mother and perhaps we will end up on Spring Beach on this warm April day, to a place above the sand on the rocks where we can look across the mile of ocean to Sister Point and Fish House Cove, where we can rest for a moment of perfect balance before the tides turn again.