Finding that slack tide in life

Water is everything. It is life sustaining; it washes, massages and comforts when hot or cold. The sound of water calms and soothes a worried spirit because it forever runs in our hearts and in our minds whether we are in its presence or not. Water is us.

Pexel, Pixaby photo

Downeast tides are something to see. I realized this quickly in my travels here, especially along the Atlantic coast of Canada, in my early days of camping and vacations. High tides dazzle, bringing life on the water closer; low tides stretch and yawn revealing life below the surface. Given these chaotic times, I realize that those of us living here are the lucky ones because, if the tides have taught me anything, it is that there is a slack tide waiting, if and when one needs one to lean on.

I am now five years in on writing this column about what I see and feel living life Downeast. Many of my essays center on people living life amidst a unique, beautiful and challenging landscape. It is life observed without blinders.

It continues to be exciting for me because what I see still feels new, even when saturated by concern given our current situation. Speaking for me, it, too, feels like we are all just plain tired.

Tired from a political system fraught with polarizing rhetoric where sheer goodness is moved to the back of the line while personal and professional survival is sacrosanct, no matter what. News that comes at blazing speeds, anytime and everywhere, with shock and awe its objective by way of repeated and re-tweeted sound bites.  Bits and pieces end up on our plates to eat, and, it works. People are angry, tired and stressed. People are afraid, yet still hungry for more.

Miroslava Chrienova,Pixaby photo

I am ambivalent as to what the future holds. I have more questions than answers and less time to stay focused until I get an answer. Somewhere, I know people are out of work, who are hungry, lonely, feeling useless as COVID-19 marches on.

Societal unrest begs for a closer look at cultural divides, racism and police accountability amid a new “uncomfortable” normal. Yet essential workers still show up; teachers try to figure out what the coming school year will look like and summer takes its last breath across a fuzzy and foggy landscape of uncertainty as an uneasy feeling bubbles to the surface, causing me and many others to ask, “What’s next?”

Even here in this quiet serene place, the noise is getting louder and I am thinking we all need a respite from what the world seems focused on. It is tiring and sometimes confusing how it all happens at the same time. I am seeing it and I am hearing it from others. When are we supposed to come up for air?

In times like these, when the bad stuff seems to be winning, my mind drifts to the sight and sound of water. For others it may be a photo, a quote, a family memory, a good book or a favorite piece of music. We turn to things that wash us with goodness, block out the distractions and bring peace to our life — if just for a brief moment.

Dimitri Houffman, Pixaby photo

I sit and wait for a slack tide, that very brief period of time when tidal water is completely unstressed. Once called “the stand of the tide,” it is that time when there is no fall, no rise, no movement in either direction. The water simply is. And so is each one of us — if we take the opportunity to sit and wait for it to happen in our own lives. Looking inward while looking out, we can take a breath, grab some stillness and — at least for that moment — be at peace.

When slack tide arrives for me, the water and my life are like glass. Water grasses and kelp stand straight up; seals poke the water’s surface with big moist nostrils and even bigger eyes; eagles above are mirrored below as blue sky holds hands with blue water; gulls float on ribbons of air; a lobsterman looks to the horizon; a clamdigger looks up from the mud; engines go silent inside and out; a cormorant slaps the water in a hurry to get somewhere; air is still; light on the water glows; clouds pause; forest birds go quiet; tree tops stop dancing as wind reclines. And, for a moment, this place I call home is pure stillness as the answer floats to the surface and points to the possibility that many more will follow because, as all Downeasters know, the ever reliable tides never disappoint.

RJ Heller

About RJ Heller

Having arrived here from Pennsylvania over four years ago, there has been plenty to learn and even more to observe. This place is different, but I mean that in a good way. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am a college graduate with a teaching degree, a business founder and seller, and a father of two children with my wife Stephanie; life has been full and somewhat adventurous, but finding Maine remains a high watermark in my life.