Walking the shoreline in driving rain the world of woes seems nothing more than a soggy imprint on my mind and life, as certain as the ebb and flow of the tides. From here, inside my seashell, I hear the faint echoes of DSK coming home to friends that say he suffers from pathological sexual impulses; I catch the murmur of a big party in La Rochelle which rocks with social solidarity – without François, who speaks for himself on our behalf; I can just pick up the rustle of Sarkozy pocketing packages from little old ladies; I hear vaguely that Chirac is too absent to be present at his own trial for messing with money 25 years ago. The summer summed up: don’t mess with money or sex in the wrong country and know who your friends are!
All this lies 5 hours away by fast train* and leaves no trace on ebbing summer skies.
There is quietness to a shell that lies empty on a shore. You know when you hold it to your ear that you will catch the tones of its former life in a rhythmic lullaby that sooths the soul. And when you lie in that quietness and the sea sings her song to you, all is as it is in the world; the journey continues as surely as salt and sun wrinkle the skin and the earth shifts under our feet.
The tide comes in and goes out; the rain falls and the sun shines. A friend takes care of her aging and ailing parents and worries on her own; another gives the news of the death of her mother over the summer and tells me of the need to clear out her “things”. I hear these things and my feet are cold in the water of late summer. My mother has come to stay and she will leave on the first days of autumn. There are clouds over the hills and the bells in the church on the far side of the harbor toll the passing of the day.
School goes back and the French call it a “rentrée” – a day thick with excitement and anxiety – a day speckled with miniature people hauling oversized satchels on their backs or behind them – an entire nation frantically engaged in getting its kids into class for a new year. And in New Zealand, the nation turns its soul towards the world rugby cup competition. There is a suggestion that that whole country should practice sexual abstinence in support of its Black warriors. No one thinks to include the French in this sort of folly of course. There is mention, however, in a local newspaper, of a special French gene that makes the team 400 times stronger when it plays the All Blacks but is inexplicably absent when it is playing against Latvia!
It is a long beach where I am and when the tide is out one can walk its full length and feel close to its moods; lost in the light and scheme of things: this Earth 4.5 billion years old – this universe 13.7 billion years old** – figures as astronomical as Greece’s debt and like the universe, still expanding.
Idling, these toes slide and sift through uncountable particles of sand – toes attached to this body that, like the 9 billion other bodies predicted to share this planet, is made up of the same stuff as the stars.
At this time of the year the tides travel in extremes. When the tide is out, it is so far out that the kids can spear squid in the exposed rock pools. When the tide is in, it is so far in the waves threaten to shower seaside strollers. These movements are powerful, exciting, exhilarating, compelling respect and common sense.
The festivities on the other side of the harbor continue through the night and the band plays on as the sun rises***. These are the tides of men: exciting at midnight and less compelling at sunrise!
Tides and times and summer passing – it is quiet now in the early morning sun.
And what kind of a summer have you had? What were the tides like and did you catch anything?
Did you know that dogs can see us in the dark because of the infrared rays that our bodies emit? Just thought you might like to know this – in case…………….
* I spent the dying days of August and the early days of September at the beach in Hendaye, in Basque country.
** ”Le Cosmos et le Lotus” by Trinh Xuan Thuan (Albin Michel 2011 unpublished in English as yet)
*** Hondarrabia is a small town on the Spanish border just across the harbor from Hendaye on the French side. The annual festivities take place over a week in early September.