All of life in miniature.
“Here the shell sat, right where she had put it.”
—from “The Mermaid” by Josephine Napiore
I shall wax ethereal for a moment.
I believe that the soothing and hypnotic quality of the ebbing and flowing tide speaks to us. I believe it speaks to us because it shows in small the largest weights which pull us. Those weights pull in unending steps through infinite variations of familiar cycles toward the calmness of inevitable completeness.
See, the tide is all of life in miniature. It cycles. It cycles the same enough that we can predict it for a hundred years to come, and different enough that if you watch it move for hours then you will never see the same image twice. Which reflects all the fragile cycles of our lives—all the familiar instances which we refer to by familiar euphemisms. Same song, different verse. History repeats itself. The cycle of seasons—green spring letting loose to sweltering summer to faltering autumn to the wickedness of the colder weeks. We wait for the cycle to renew, because it always will. New lives after old deaths after long spells of trying to learn what that means.
It feels rather episodic. Everything ends, and hope rises from promising ourselves that something will begin again afterwards.
When we talk about things, we seem to prefer talking about things in pieces. This thing begins, and it will end, creating a singular completeness. It comforts us, somehow, to feel like we have the capacity to hold something whole in our minds. Then the bittersweet side of it rears, when knowledge of a whole suggests knowledge of a broken end. Then we reach for another whole, trying to fill ourselves up.
I think that the reason we strive for more complete things and the reason that the wishing and shushing tide bewitches us come from the same place.
The tide will never end. Even if all the water dries away and the shore turns desert, the creaking, ageless whatever that makes the tide run and sigh will continue. I think, somewhere deep inside of us, we know that. We know that the moon pulls the tide, and the Earth pulls the moon, and that something vast happens no matter what small things change. We can hold only broken pieces in our minds—driftwood on the surf. Yet by watching the waxing and waning of the surface where those pieces sit, we can somewhat touch infinity.
Which doesn’t cheer me up, I guess. But it does give me a calmness.
Thank you, Josephine Napiore, for writing a story like the tide. Wishing and shushing on and on into the fullness of forever.
Brought to you by “The Mermaid” by Josephine Napiore
Image: Jeremy Bishop | Unsplash
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