Saturday, June 27, 2009

High Tide in Sitka

Life on the island often means planning our schedules based on tides rather than the calendar or clock.

A trip to town is scheduled for when the tide is the right height for the boat to get up to the rock shelf to load or unload water cans, groceries, and so forth.

The tides dictate the length of our stay in town as well -- it's no fun to unload everything when the tide is too low!

One of my all-time favorite books is Barbara Kingsolver's collection of essays,
High Tide in Tucson.

In the title essay, Kingsolver writes about Buster, a hermit crab she accidentally brings back to her desert home from a trip to the Bahamas. Buster turns out to have manic-depressive tendencies and Kingsolver presumes that when "he" is running around for all he's worth, it is high tide in Tucson.

Kingsolver admits that often she feels "as disoriented as poor Buster, unprepared for the life that zooms headlong past my line of sight. This clutter of human paraphernalia and counterfeit necessities -- what does it have to do with the genuine business of life on earth? It feels strange to me to be living in a box, hiding from the steadying influence of the moon. . . making promises over the telephone about things I will do at a precise hour next year."

Then comes one of my favorite passages from Kingsolver's book, and one that I recite to myself often:

"Want," says Kingsolver, "is a thing that unfurls unbidden like fungus, opening upon itself, stopless, filling the sky. But needs, from one day to the next, are few enough to fit in a bucket, with room enough left to rattle like brittlebush in a dry wind."

Life on the island, with schedules influenced by the tides, helps me focus on the ebb and flow of life and reminds me that the material backdrop of my life is mostly immaterial compared with what moves inside of me.

So, with Kingsolver, I resolve: "Wherever I am, let me never forget to distinguish want from need. Let me be a good animal today. Let me dance in the waves of my private tide, the habits of survival and love."

(Click here to read excerpts from Kingsolver's book.)

1 comment:

  1. I love Barbara Kingsolver's books. She came as a guest speaker at a bookstore in Salt Lake City many years ago, and after having met her, I became an even bigger fan.


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