against the tides

When my brothers and I were in elementary school and spent a day at the beach, we’d swim, look for shells, catch blue crabs to eat, and if any of our friends were around with a boat, we might head out to the scallop bar 2/3 of we way across the Apalachee Bay.

Invariably–ff the tide was out–we’d build a fort at low tide where the seaweed on the beach showed the high tide’s level would be when it came back in. We hoped that one day our study sand fort would stand against the tides. It never did. We always lost the battle no matter how much extra sand we added as the waves rolled in.  We always lost faster against spring tides! Or during stormy weather.

We were too young to know anything about land tides of interest to geologists and volcanologists, much less the so-called cosmic tides measured by the I Ching, the surprisingly accurate Book of Changes that helps people align their goals with the ever-present changes in the universe.

Being somewhat fractious–or perhaps egotistic–I have fought the tides for sport all my life. It’s no wonder that one of my favorite songs was Bob Seeger’s “Against the Wind.” Any sailor knows you can sail against the wind just as every intuitive knows you can navigate your life against the advice of the I Ching.

The question is always: why do it? If you have a beach cottage, you probably have a tidal clock, so you can see the daily high and low tides. Hopefully, you have a barometer as well. So you know, for example, when to go out to the scallop bar and when the water will be too deep. We can know a lot a lot about ocean tides, land tides, and even cosmic tides in advance and therefore stop fighting all of them unless there’s an emergency.

My brothers and I learned one thing for sure with your sand forts. The tides are stronger than we are and they predict what will happen to coastal cities if rising sea levels continue. Sure, an expensive and disruptive system of levees can be built, but all that will just postpone the inevitable until we decide to stop what’s causing rising sea levels.

Or, we can pretend it’s not happening until our cities collapse as easily as forts of sand at the high tide line.