For a while now, I’ve used the internal shorthand of “low tide” for when I’m in a depressive period.
There’s the word “low,” in it, naturally. And I know that it’s a temporary state, even as I know that it’s also one that will come back. But more, it is the feeling of being left both stranded and exposed – the water has left you behind along with dead kelp and trash, and the seagulls are circling overhead to pick you apart.
But it’s been a while since I actually encountered low tide outside of metaphor.
Our last day on Whidbey Island, we came back to the beach during low tide. Boat owners had known it was coming. They had pulled the motors on board and the boats sat quietly next to their anchors.
The water had raked the sand and the tiny rivulets that were running back to the ocean were so strikingly warm for bare feet. The wet ribbed sand made “shmp shmp” shushes when we walked across it, packed hard and smooth so far out into the water, farther than I thought it possible.
And the sunlight was pulling the water out from the sand so the mist it made was luminous and numinous and I felt that I could walk out in shallow water on firm forgiving sand into the light until the edge of the world.
My tides are going to come in, and go out, and come in again. And that’s all right. I’m working to finally accept that it is part of myself, like my eyes being brown or being right-handed.
But it’s a very human habit to start to mistake the metaphor for the thing itself, and then to forget the nuance beyond the service that the metaphor provides.
Talk to your neighbors, and meet your metaphors, at least every once in a while.