Low Tide: Lessons in Exposure
We’ve come again to that little cove: a sandy, rocky stretch of beach wrapped tightly around the cold waters of Puget Sound. The water stretches out all blue-green-gray until it touches blue-white-gray sky out beyond.
The colors of a Seattle winter are all soft and mild and wet like this.
Annika holds my hand tightly as our boots crunch down into puddles and sand. She's nervous about the off-leash dogs that fly past us in their happy delirium. They sound like horses as they come close and every time she pauses to tense up until they pass.
Banjo has run ahead and turns to look back, waiting. Tail wagging.
I urge her forward.
The beach looks so different today because the tide is low. The waters have pulled back and left all the hidden, underwater-things uncovered and glistening.
Behind us, everything has slowly dried and dulled and cracked – on it’s way to becoming grains of sand. But this stuff down here is other-worldly. It reflects light in iridescent colors and smells salty and strange. Much of it is still alive.
We watch our step.
The dogs aren’t running down here and she grows curious and a little brave. She flips over a heavy, barnacle-covered rock and giggles when tiny crabs scurry furiously back down into the mud. I point out the funny, urchin creatures waving their arms around in the puddles like alien sunflowers; I show her how they will close up tight if I brush my fingertip near the middle. She even finds a huge, fat starfish stuck like glue to the back of a rock. It is not squishy and soft like we expect, it is rough and rock-like and barely moves at our gentle touch. (She will talk about it for days.)
The low tide has left so much uncovered and nearly every shallow gulley has something hiding in it – trying to survive the air and the gulls and the 5 year olds until the waters rush back over and our footprints disappear underneath.
But now it is all exposed in this beautiful, vulnerable glory. We tread and touch carefully and with reverence because this is the kind of thing that doesn’t – that can’t – last forever.
I tell her how it all works: how the watery shell around the earth is being pulled up towards the heavy moon and we keep spinning in and out of the shallows. I whisper to her and feel it echoing in my soul somehow… how there is this giant, unseen force tugging at that shell and causing these brief, dangerous and beautiful dry spells.
In my human heart, I fear the dry spells. I fear and endure the times when my surface gets pulled back and things are exposed just as they are. I hold my breath while the water rises and swells upward, wait for it to fall back into place. To fill all the low places again. Cover me in deep, flooding abundance. And it does, it always does - He doesn't ask me to be vulnerable and brave and exposed forever. Just sometimes, just for a little while.... just for as long as it takes.
And there is such beauty when life is revealed like this. The waters recede and we see it all at once – the tender, thriving things. The murky, rotting things. A sudden and grand display of sparkling life and stenching death before any of it has the time to hide or change or disappear forever.
The wind is picking up and our second-hand rain boots are filling up with sea water. We pull up our hoods and zippers, call the dog, and head back up towards the car.
My daughter picks up the remnants of a pink seashell whose outer cover has been smashed and we run our fingers along the pearly, inside twist where some living thing used to be. She is a Respecter of All Rules, but her Mama has never quite been so, and I say we can take this one, special thing home to remember our day at the beach.
She will go home and put it on her book shelf. She will talk incessantly of starfish and mud and she will dream that night of seashells and mermaids and trips to the moon. But I will tuck it away in my heart like truth. And I will dream of the bravery that rejoices in vulnerable, exposed seasons of the heart – when all things are revealed and glory can be fully seen.