Tidal Rave


  • For a small harbor, Huntington has widely varied bottoms.  In addition to sand and clay deposits once used for pottery and brickmaking, there are mud flats, and rocks, and grasses and, for that matter, piers and deep water off the various bulkheads and docks.  Nobody goes into the water without some kind of footwear _ not only is the muck unpleasant but there are sharp broken shells, annoying edged rocks, and the detritus of centuries of sunken boats, industrial activity, and shoreline dumping.
  • Being scoured twice a day, the intertidal area is hardly as forbidding as you might think.  Here there are almost pristine pebbles, exposed seaweed, and a closer look would reveal periwinkles, mussels, and clams, abundant even in these polluted times.  Seagulls make a nice living, once upon a time, people did also.


  • A careful observer can easily determine if tide is coming in or going out simply from observing the state of the sands and rivulets nearest the wave line.  Another indicator, under the right conditions, is the brown scum of bubbles caused by air pockets and dried dust floating up as the water rises.  In this case, the bubbles have detached to form little brown patches on the water. 
  • I admit that in this, as in so many other things, I am hardly a careful observer.  Sometimes I see more in my pictures of a scene later than I did at the scene itself.  When I closely examine the rocks here, the stained dinghy, the corroded chain, each seems marvelous in its own way, and would not seem out of place in a modern art gallery somewhere _ especially, I suppose, inland where folks have never seen such things.  Beauty can come in many guises.


  • Imagine an old gentleman wearing a long robe sitting in this gazeebo and then (if you had the proper temperament and training) you could create a fine Chinese brush painting of this scene.  Working it backwards, this helps you understand the models used for those lovely colored ink on silk works existing since antiquity.  A photograph is hardly better.
  • Life without accomplishment is empty.  To accomplish we must have short and long term goals, plans, tasks and obsessions, which focus us and ignore irrelevancies.  But even artificial constraints, such as the theme I use each week, can blind us to a great deal.  This scene has nothing to do with tides, and has been available each morning, and I have not seen it.  Not a fault, just another contradiction, a zen realization that reality is never truly known.


  • The least interesting moments occur mid tide, when bleak sands are revealed and fascinating mudflats still lie hidden.  Full tide is lovely as a lake, low tide is filled with marvels revealed.   Mid tide _ well, this is the actual tidal zone, of course, within the borderlines of all that thrives here, and yet it seems stony and barren and boring. 
  • I cast my moods and judgements like stains upon my experiences, coloring it almost beyond recognition.  I expect clams and crabs and shells and a shipwreck or two _ I find broken bleached ruins.  On another day the same umber sands and sea lavender glow with the brilliance of stained glass.  Mercurial irrelevant perceptions are surely one of the perverse glories of being exactly what I am.  


  • Full flood tide at Gold Star Battalion Beach.  People prefer the ocean when it is low _ more beach to share, a greater water area to spread out in, and varied zones of wave intensity.  But at most Huntington beaches, low tide is shunned _ too much flotsam, jetsam, and organic detritus floating in the reduced volume.  Children are sternly warned not to get heads wet, any mishap induces moments of panic.  E. Coli is treated as if it were bubonic plague.
  • Every day many fatal car accidents occur, but we ignore them.  Our ancestors coped with high childhood mortality, women dying frequently in childbirth, death from starvation or wild animals or exposure or incurable contagious diseases always threatening.  Yet today what we most fear are sore throats, upset stomachs, minor diarrhea, or earaches, maybe an infected scratch.  We’ve lost perspective.  I suppose we could learn to exist with such horrors once again, as the unfortunate refugees in the Mideast and elsewhere are doing at this very moment, but I hope it never happens.  Parents worrying about the possibility of earaches is a wonderful sign of civilization working. 


  • Coastal fishing, marine navigation, recreation, and infrastructure depend on tides _ not only high or low, but incoming or ebbing _ which are maddeningly exact.  Almost every six hours the state flips, almost every seven days a given hour will have the opposite tide, a few miles of shoreline severely impact timing, and of course the ocean is _ almost _ the opposite of the Sound.  And all the activities and tide levels themselves are also affected by temperature, local and distant weather, alignment of sun and moon, unpredictable waves, time of day, and season.  For anyone not a professional dealing with it daily, it might as well be completely random.
  • Humans tend to grumble.  Rain on weekends, cold weather on summer vacation, low tide when we want high.  Only those privileged to live along a tidal shoreline for a while can understand how profoundly different it is from a river or lake.  I consider the harbor tides one of the finest attractions of living where I do, even when they upset my plans.


  • Earth’s diameter is just about 8000 miles; the biozone from the top of breathable air to bottom of ocean depths is barely 8,  and for all practical purposes even smaller than that.  Comparisons of density are even worse, since life exists only around the lightest components.  The surface area is a vast 200 million square miles, but of course three quarters of that is water.  The rest is mountains, desert, fields, ice, and forest, with a few lakes thrown in.  The intertidal zone may be locally pervasive, but represents only a thin tiny ribbon along salt water coasts.  In that inconsequentially tiny environment exist immensely rich and diverse ecologies.
  • I think about that when strolling the shoreline.  I too am inconsequential compared to everything, but inhabit what feels like a tremendously rich personal universe.  Life, they say, began in the oceans and had to get through this barrier to start inhabiting the land.  I am more of the fiddler crab type, never venturing into the depths on one side, nor testing the dryness on the other.  Waving a claw at neighbors and running from shadows constitutes quite enough excitement for me. 

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