A web conversation about LowTide

Ann Jarnet, Robert Greenway, John Scull, Sylvie Shaw, Harriet Wood



ICE member Amy Lenzo was a co-founder of the annual festival, LowTide.  This festival, celebrating the lowest tide on a Saturday in May, began in the UK in 1995 and has now spread to over 100 communities around the world.  In 1999 and 2000 Cowichan Bay, British Columbia, joined the network and celebrated LowTide.  The discussion below was sparked by John and Amy describing the outcome of LowTide 2000.  If you are in or near a coastal community and would like to celebrate LowTide on your bit of shoreline, contact Amy Lenzo or visit the RORE website for more information.

Ann Jarnet:

Amy's report on Low Tide 2000 was interesting -- thank you. I am wondering about energy and the tides and how living things respond to this rhythmic phenomenon. At low tide, once the shore reveals what the water has deposited, we as humans dare to emerge from our regular world and to explore what we could not during the moments of immense force from the sea. We are able to use our energy to observe, learn, experience what is not immediately obvious when the tide comes in and the undertow is strong. At high tide, we can only sit back and plan what we will/could do at low tide, we can dream, we can wait. We watch what that force can do. At low tide, when the force of the water has receded somewhat, our own energy swings into action. We venture out, mindful, but not fearful. Timing is important. Watching for signs, most subtle at first, and then more insistent. While our bodies can hang back, our spirits can remain with the motion, the sound, the memory of what was seen and experienced. Both the sea and we are engaged in the dance of leading and yielding, leading, yielding, and the dance continues... Just a thought. Ann

Robert Greenway:

What a beautiful and provocative thought indeed -- seems a perfect example of how the "forces and processes" of nature infiltrate our abstract "culture-boundedness" and present to us doorways and invitations to re-integrate ourselves. Isn't that the goal (and an evolutionary one)? To re-claim the harmony of enbeddedness without giving up the capacities of our "minds"?

As you know, I live here on the shores of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, right at the point where the Big Ocean, via the Straits, enters into the calmer waters of Puget Sound. The tides roil around this little nob of land (almost an island) something fierce! I keep close tabs on the changing of the tides, and try and take my dog (my excuse!) for a run on the beach every day, just as the tides are changing. (The idea of "querencia" comes out of that -- the still point (here! now!) just as there is a shift in rhythms -- when dark starts turning towards the light, the pendulum at it's highest point before swinging back, and of course the tides, so intertwined with our (or especially your) physiology (moon envy!). (I've got otter-envy too! The other day, just at the moment the tides were changing -- I was checking the seconds on my watch -- a beautiful otter surfaced just a few feet offshore, and fixed me with her incredible liquid eyes. Zap! the perfect moment! Thanks for reminding me of all this. EP for sure!

p.s., I wonder about the energy manifest in these events as well. I assume there must be an effect, little understood. I'm fascinated by "transpersonal" ideas -- the changes in my own little private consciousness when the tide changes, or when an otter suddenly appears. And if my consciousness opens to "Mind" -- the mind we all share -- are these changes transmitted to other "consciousnesses" -- at least those not completely closed off? do you now "have an otter" too? And are such images "transmitted" (or tapped into) instantly, regardless of distance -- i.e., "synchronously", as Jung and many physicists have thought?

John Scull:

Reflections:  Intertidal environments may be more stressful than any other place on earth. Every 12-13 hours the organisms who live there must adjust to moving from living underwater to living in the air. Twice each day the temperature, sunlight, pressure, salinity, predators, and everything else changes. Wave action, spray, and currents are constantly changing. It is a real challenge for Darwinian processes to create organisms who can thrive in these conditions.

Ann Jarnet:

Oh, how wonderful to read this. So, while we humans respond to the incoming and outgoing tide (for observing, for livelihoods, for life processes), other life forms are engaged in their own processes, and are also involved in the "waiting" and responding at the opportune moment. What harmony exists, and how conscious we have to be to be fully engaged... I love this.

Sylvie Shaw:

I think Robert, that having it ‘both ways’ is the way I try to experience the world. That is the term that Aboriginal people from N.E. Arnhem Land use to express their concept of ‘ganma’. Ganma is reflected in the metaphor of tides - where the salt water swirls with the fresh water in the brackish tidal lagoon. For non Aboriginal people, this edge place is often scary, a murky place where monsters lurk; a place that is dank, smelly, full of mosquitoes, sand flies, and mangroves. But for Aboriginal people from northern Australia, it is a place of creativity, of overlap, where the fresh water people meet the salt water people, where black meets white, where men and women gather, where new ideas and new creativity merges.

I have finally got Florence Krall's lovely book Ecotone (1994) and in there she talks about edge places.

In the natural world, edges where differences come together are the richest of habitats...Transitional species ... have become adapted to 'life on the edge'...Change is a fundamental part of all natural communities, even those that seem stable, as the cycles of life and death set into play a succession of regenerating events.

Further on Krall says that the ‘margins in social and cultural contexts ... may be rich in great learning as well as suffering’. Later she describes the margins as ‘a place of soul-making’. And she also quotes Kristeva as calling this place a place of ‘crossroads beings’. Perhaps this is also what Thich Nat Hahn terms ‘interbeing’.

In terms of its cultural and social extension, there is a lovely poem from Gloria Anzaldua (1987:3) in her book Borderlands/la frontera.

    But the skin of the earth is seamless
    The sea cannot be fenced.
    el mar
does not stop at borders.

Anzaldua's beautiful image of the once-impenetrable border vanishing to a more fluid landscape (mestiza) is reminiscent of the fluidity of the overlap of ‘ganma’; without it we are left with what could be described as a 'monocultural west'.

So LowTide takes me to these places too. Thanks John and Amy for the reflection on the event.. Now that I have Krall's inspiration, I can begin to see the connection between LowTide as a soul making place, as a place on the edge and the whole post-colonial discussion over penetrable boundaries and permeable borders.

(Anzaldua, G. (1987) Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.
Krall, F. R. (1994) Ecotone: Wayfaring on the Margins. Albany, NY:, State University of New York Press.)

Harriet Wood:

Sylvie, what a fruitful connection, I guess the phrase common ground comes from/is a metaphor for common land/the commons. Do we fight here when we tread on each others toes/fields of expertise? Complain at each other's weapons while denying that we carry any?

Also thinking of the yin/yang sign where the opposites do not merge but reach into and contain each other, like the swirl of salt and fresh water. Something else my daughter and I did on our low tide walk, where a warm stream met the icy sea and we were paddling and being surprised at the patterns of warm and cold.