In one moment the tide flows toward land, toward stability, and in the next moment it ebbs away, out to sea, toward uncertainty.
I remember when my children were little, how I’d watch them wait for the right moment to leap forward, for the exact instant when the wave before them would expose her vulnerability so they could take her on. But, I also remember thinking if they weren’t mindful of the ocean’s great power, they risked getting caught in her grasp and pulled out to sea. Therefore, it was important they learn how to distinguish between the wave they could ride and the wave they could not.
In writing, authors create scenes that surge ahead like waves crashing upon the beach, propelling the plot forward. Writers follow those scenes with sequels, to afford our characters the chance to catch their breath, to think about what just happened or what could happen next. To reflect inward, to contemplate and to change.
Our stories, and our lives, are threaded together by strands of action and reaction, scenes and sequels, rising and falling. Our plots depend on this for survival, and so do our lives. Just as the sea depends on the balance of its ebb and flow, to prevent flooding or disparity, our stories rely on the scene and sequel dynamic. Action and re-action. Something happens and consequences follow; sometimes good, sometimes bad. Our characters sort through those actions and consequences by way of thought and emotion, before they engage in the next scene and start all over.
Like the characters in our narratives who fight their way through the current, rather than float lazily through their conflicts or succumb to the undertow, we individuals learn to expect, and manage fluctuation and change, the back and forth of easy times and difficult times, the moments when things may go our way and the inevitable times when things will not. We learn to understand and appreciate the necessary influence of balance and change, to recognize and respect the changes of the tide, and the ebb and flow of the ocean, and of life.
A foolish person would challenge the rising and falling of the sea, and yet floating lazily with inactivity or taking a passive approach can as easily throw him off course like a piece of sun- bleached driftwood tossing about in the surf, with no direction or probability of finding a way to safe ground, of finding that firm piece of land to which he might anchor himself.
Our stories, and our lives, are about movement, then stillness. Activity, and rest. Conflict, then resolution. Turbulence, and peace. Cause, and effect. Contemplation, and decision.
Or vice versa.
It is all in the ebb and flow of the tide.
Our characters, like people, grow more in the stillness that follows movement, within the sequel period, post- scene, during the internal dialogue or narrative, where they ponder inward and make decisions. It is in the deepest and most quiet layers of our minds that peace and resolution await us, rather than in the busy, noisy moments of activity.
Rushing in to greet us, the tide teases, and fools us, before she turns away, leaving us as quickly as she descended upon us. We watch her in awe. We admire her. And we fear her. We deliberate. We dodge. We fight. We stand strong against her wrath on stormy days and we lay back and glide when the weather is sunny and calm. We decide. We act. We can be knocked down by her force, or we can gather the courage from within, to choose the wave most suited to take us back to shore.
Our characters overcome obstacles throughout their stories, as individuals do through out life. They make mistakes and they learn or they don’t learn and they flounder. They might drift aimlessly out to sea, or become trapped in a rip tide, or on the other hand, they might learn how to leverage the right wave that will transport them home.
We rise above the surface or we drown. We succeed or we fail. We change, or we remain stagnant. We gain faith or we become stuck. A story without scenes bores the reader and a story without sequels leaves our readers empty and shallow. Each scene should include tension, suspense, stakes, conflict, or decisions to make, and each sequel should follow with reflection, success or failure, peace, resolution or change. The scene/ sequel relationship offers our readers insight, inspiration, a lesson, and growth, like the tide that deposits sorted seashells, trumpet whelks, and glittery sea glass as treasures in the sand.
Moreover, the non stop cycle of creation, like the ebb and flow of the tide, reminds us there is always something happening behind the scenes, something meant to be, even when our characters, and our readers, do not readily recognize that. Even when this idea is so far over the horizon that individuals cannot see it.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote in Loss and Gain, the following;
When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.
I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.
But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.
In his poem, Longfellow points out that peace and happiness often come from sorrow and difficulty. From his own losses in life, Longfellow gained an insight and strength that found it’s voice in his poetry. His words live on not only for their verse and tempo, but for the courage and hope they inspire, even in the face of anxiety, indecisiveness, fear, sadness, suffering and failure.
In Loss and Gain, Longfellow writes about disappointment and regret, of longing, and the wisdom we gain through humility and patience, of the hope that comes when we are able to develop faith in ourselves, grow confidence in one another and believe in something much bigger than ourselves.
While it is okay to stand at the ocean’s edge, watching in awe as the ocean’s waves tumble toward us, we must remain mindful of her tendency to knock us down, and silence our urge to dodge the wave we have the capacity to take on. We must resist the undertow lurking beneath her that threatens to destroy us every day, and we must take our chance on the most fitting wave with the most potential to transport us toward safer ground.
For, it is in the ebb and flow of the tide, in our stories and in our moments, and in our lives, that individuals build strength, develop patience, discover potential, become confident, overcome weakness, and let go of fear. And it is in the changing of the tide that we decide when and how to steady ourselves between the most turbulent of breakers and the calmest of swells, where the resolution and peace for which we have been searching eagerly awaits us, like the mother watching her children stumble and fall only to rise back up again, each time more confident than the tumble before.
Then, at the end of the day, as the sun sets in the sky, and the children’s fingers are wrinkled from being submerged in the ocean for so long, the mother wraps her children in towels, and in love and fulfillment, while the ebb and flow of the tide behind them continues on.