The Tide Always Wins, and Yet...

Take your place in the ebb and flow.

Posted Sep 18, 2017

Ogunquit Beach/Seaburn
Source: Ogunquit Beach/Seaburn

I was standing in the ice cold surf on Ogunquit Beach in southern Maine. The tide was turning, but the beach was still at least six hundred feet wide. Despite coming to Ogunquit 30 times or more since 1975, this was our first September visit when there were no crowds and the pace is enticingly slow. As my toes gradually unclenched and became accustomed to the water, I studied my companions on the sandy landscape. Fewer children, that’s for sure; many couples; and more senior citizens.

I was about to walk back up the beach to join my wife when I noticed a woman pushing her mother in a wheelchair toward the water. The chair had outsized inflated tires to ease navigation on the sand. They reached the water and the daughter lifted her mother to her feet so she could stand in the surf on her own. The daughter wrapped herself around her mother, who was wobbly. With each new wave, the surf spread further across the flat beach. At one point I noticed the wheelchair starting to float away on its ample balloon tires. The daughter reached but could not grab the handle as she held tight to her immobile mother.

I walked quickly to their side and took hold of the wheelchair which now was bobbing like a cork with each approaching wave. The daughter explained that her mother’s knees kept her from being able to navigate well on her own. I could see the frustration and embarrassment on her mother’s face. She studied each wave, steadying herself as it approached.  She talked to me about how much she loved the cold water, the feel of it on her feet. She was 89 and sharp as a tack; her jaw jutted with determination. She wondered if she should go back up the beach, although it was clear from the look in her eyes that she didn’t want to go. I said there was no reason to hurry; she could stand in the water as long as she pleased.

And so that’s what we did. There we were. An 89-year-old woman, her faithful daughter, my wife, who came to join us, and me (now wrestling with a floating wheelchair that was quickly getting the upper hand). Together, we stood fast against the encroaching tide.  

Ogunquit Beach2/Seaburn
Source: Ogunquit Beach2/Seaburn

Of course, the tide always wins. The tide always sweeps the beach clean. Nevertheless, there is something beautiful about doing whatever is necessary, no matter how foolhardy it may seem, no matter how limited, how small we may feel, to enter in, to join, to take one’s place, if only briefly, in the ever-changing yet steadfast ebb and flow of life’s great tide.

David B. Seaburn has written six novels, most recently, Parrot Talk. He is a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist, and minister.