Ocean Wisdom

Manzanita, Oregon September 2014

Manzanita, Oregon September 2014

The ocean is one of my teachers. I was considering how life unfolds through difficult seasons—loss of loved ones, changing jobs, miscarriages, illness…the list is lengthy. Yet often while in the midst of what most saddens our heart, there is something unfolding that is heartening. It is not unusual to hear about an impending birth in a family that is experiencing a death. Or about a family reconciliation during a time of illness and being told, “it was what was needed to bring everyone to their senses.” On the other side, a community can be experiencing abundance and still have tensions or a family may be in joy, while one member is in the early stages of addiction.

I find a deep spiritual connection when I am at the beach. I walk along the coastline as the tide flows in and out. The waves seem to chase each other back and forth—some racing toward me, while others recede into the background. Since I’m not a tidal expert, without looking at the longer shoreline, I can’t tell right away if it is high or low tide, if the beach is being revealed or masked. When I am in the midst of those waves grabbing at my ankles all I can see is the present moment. Feel the water swirling around me-the warmth of water kissed by summer sun or the cold Pacific undercurrent. To live life in the present moment and not live in anticipation of what is next has been written and taught by many sages and I will be the first to admit it is often easier taught than done. Maybe it is in how we choose to explore the present moment that helps us remain—present. One way of doing that for me has been through writing poetry. If you bear with me, I will share how the shifting of tides tie in with my poetry.

Over the summer I have been writing, rewriting, refining, and compiling over sixty poems (some old, some new) and have met with writing coach, Kate Gray, http://kategraywrites.com/ to encourage myself toward a goal I shared in an early blog post (July 3rd: http://www.nurtureyourjourney.net/blog/2016/7/3/risk ) of submitting poems for a book. When I met with her last week, she suggested I start looking at four arcs or themes as a way to start sorting. Hmm. It took me a couple days to even think about what shape that might take and then my initial thoughts have been revamped as I’ve been in dialogue with my ocean guide.

My writing arises out of many facets of my life, including my experiences of working with people at the end of life, with chronic illness, addictions and life altering events. With veterans, those grieving and working with those in a multitude of life transitions. Personally walking alongside my mother with her memory loss, being a woman in mid-life, having millennial-aged children, and as someone who connects deeply with the earth. My training in spiritual direction and chaplaincy, my own therapy and spiritual direction taught me actual “words” that could be associated with so much of what I experienced, for it has been experienced by others for millennia. So as I reread the old poems and new one emerging, I noticed patterns. These are the four that initially came to the surface:

  1.     exploring/creating/birthing/nurturing
  2.     desolation/destruction/decaying/death
  3.     rebirth/restoration/healing/rest/preparation
  4.     insight/wisdom/adoration

Nothing new under the sun from me! Writings by mystics, ancient and new, myths and stories from all cultures touch on these themes. What I will own is I am writing from my voice.

Now this is where my ocean sage and tides start to come into focus. A quick Google search (what did we do before your creation, oh great Google!) revealed there are four primary tides: diurnal tides with a high and low every day, semi-diurnal with two highs and lows a day and mixed tides. For my none-technical, metaphorical mind, let just say we have a range of high tides, low tides, and mixed tides. These types of tides are based on the relationship between the earth, moon and sun (and isn’t that a yummy metaphor to play with one day.) The fourth tide is based on meteorological influences, such as storm surges, ice melts and severe barometric pressure changes. It doesn’t take much a leap to see this fourth kind as those events in life that turn your world upside down and leave you feeling overwhelmed, underwater, swept out to sea.

As I started looking at my poems, I see some fit in the pattern of high tides—which I would define as life feeling full. Perhaps feeling like a one is at a cycle of completion with a new awareness and understanding. Maybe feeling joyous and content. Akin to the above category of insight, wisdom and adoration.

Others fell in line more with low tides—when the shore is uncovered, free to explore, create, discover. Like all metaphors, it may not be a perfect match, for birth would usually have us in a womb-like space, but even then, consider something has been birthed and is left upon the shore to grow and be nurtured. With a low tide, that means the shore is laid bare, which comes with its own uncomfortableness when we consider our personal journey, just as being too full can feel uncomfortable in a high tide period.

Then there is the category of mixed tides. Here is an actual definition: mixed tides are unequal, meaning they do not rise and fall to the same levels. I think of the mixed tide times in our life as the in-between times. Times of healing, restoration, rest. And times of preparation. Times when we are neither sated or empty. Life is unfolding. It may feel settled with days of equilibrium…or it may feel as if something is getting ready to shift like the sand beneath your feet. Time just is.

And the fourth tide—the one based on atmospherical forces. That is the one that can leave us desolate and full of upheaval inside. The storms of life.

My ocean sage teaches me that the tides are constantly moving in a rhythmic dance with the sun, moon and earth. I am wise to stay present to the tidal moment, for I will not be in any one tide forever. Even the fourth tide will subside as it is a temporary occurrence (though with long term effects that need to be given voice and meaning.)

If you were to look down at your feet in the sand, notice the water lapping around them, what tidal waters are you in? Is it high, low or a mixed tide time in your life? Are you in the midst of a storm surge? What offers you hope in the midst of the storms that you will resurface and make it back to shore? When you have the opportunity to head to the beach next, watch the tide and play with the metaphor the ocean offered to me. See what washes over you.