Quite early this morning I happened to check the local tide tables at almost exactly the moment of maximum low tide . . . and so Henry and I walked down to the shore to take a look. Silvery grey waves, a silvery grey sky, and the mostly-rocky shore exposed with some clam shells on the red red sand.
Born in the heart of Ontario, I always loved summer time visits to the small northern forested lakes and to the oceanic Great Lakes too -- Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Superior. But I did not see actual ocean for the first time until I was in my mid-20s, teaching art history and travelling with a group of colleagues to Greece, Turkey and Egypt. It was the Mediterranean . . . the wine-dark Aegean Sea of ancient myth. Salty ocean breezes, and above all the constant change of the tides: so different from lakes, like the pulse of a living thing. Instantly compelling. And so when we've travelled for birding vacations over the years, whenever possible I have tried to find us a place on the ocean, preferably west facing into the sunset.
We all vaguely "know" that the moon affects the tides . . . but how wonderful that in this age of the internet, it's just a matter of a few clicks to learn something about how it happens!! Two high tides a day, two low tides a day, and not happening at exactly the same time each day but shifting roughly 50 minutes a day . . . since the earth rotates around the moon but the moon also rotates around the earth.
What's our moon phase right now? A moonless night tonight: the moon and sun and earth "lined up". For maximum gravitational pull. "Spring" tide: not "spring" as in season of the year but "spring" as in "puling hardest". Tomorrow night, newest of the new moons, that thin crescent fingernail beginning its "waxing" cycle. At full moon . . . "neap" tide . . . when the gravitational pull is weakest and the high and low tides show least gravitational difference.
Did I get that right? Just getting started at figuring it out here! And yes, it's more complicated than that because the moon's orbit is elliptical . . . so we have perigee (closest, largest) and apogee (furthest, smallest) moons with corresponding local tide effects.
And then the moon also wobbles a bit on its own axis as it turns . . . and yes, that has effect on brilliance of light and gravity perceived moon size and tides and: the mind wobbles, in sympathy!!
But it's lovely to think that high tide and low tide have been happening in this harbour for decades and centuries and millennia before me. And will continue long long after me too. I am frankly not sure I want to "understand" it all, even if I could . . . since most of those who came before me could not, did not . . . and there's an ineffable mystery, a not-knowing which only adds to the power of our perception of this ocean in this universe.
Remember that old sly saying, about romance . . . "The moon affects the tide and also the untied" . . those courting, those not yet joined in marriage.
Those of us in relationships do feel tied to each other, sometimes more and sometimes less! . . . but all of us, to greater and to lesser degrees, feel tied to this earth as well.
And I sometimes wonder (with my Scots/Viking heritage) how many of my ancient ancestors were sea-going explorers. Fascinated by the oceans on which they sailed -- as tied to the tides as I am discovering myself to be.