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Kathy Bradley - A quick glance may not always be enough
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Point worth noting: At first glance, it is impossible to tell whether the tide is coming in or going out.
    I came to this realization last weekend watching the ocean lap at my feet as I sat on a barnacle-crusted rock that, among many others, had been hoisted onto the beach in an effort to slow erosion.
    I happened to be sitting there in an effort to forestall a different kind of erosion: four friends and I had come to the island to breath deeply and talk seriously and laugh loudly and now, on Sunday, they had left for home. As soon as the towels finished drying back at the condo, I would do the same, but as long as I sat on the rock, staring at the wide flat ocean, nothing could eat away at the peacefulness and serenity that buds in the human heart when it feels safe.
    There were few people on the beach. It was, after all, October. A couple of kayakers paddled in unison in water just deep enough for their paddles. An awkward teenager splashed in the shallow puddles that surrounded the rocks and squealed as the waves wet her rolled-up pants legs. A man on a bicycle made a wide turn and headed back the way he had come.
    I sat with my knees pulled up to my chest, arms wrapped around them and chin perched atop them, as though I’d been spring-loaded, ready to be flung into the sky and out over the ocean in a long wide arc that ended at the horizon. A seated fetal position, a not-so-subtle manifestation of something gestating, but not yet ready to be birthed.
    I stared at the sandbar, covered in water, where the rolling sea first makes white foam. I imagined a spot in the middle of the ocean, miles and miles away from land and people, where the water and salt and air that will become the waves seem motionless, the surface almost like glass. But they are not motionless, the water and salt and air. Gravity — the magnetic force that through the rotation of the planet and its moon creates the tide, pulling in, pushing out, in a predictable rhythm — has already begun its work.
    Making its imperceptible journey toward land the waves feel the resistance of the ocean floor as the water becomes shallower. They move faster, developing power with their speed, and they begin to fold over themselves, grabbing the hovering air, ready to throw themselves in graceful, leaping curves at the shore, ready to lick at the sand beneath me, beneath the rock.
    That’s when I wondered, for the first time since I’d walked down to the beach, whether the tide was coming in or going out. And that’s when I realized, for the first time ever, that a quick glance won’t tell.
    A quick glance is pretty much all we give most things. A quick glance at the newspaper, a quick glance at the mail, a quick glance at the price tag. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror before changing lanes. Sometimes a quick glance is enough.
    But not always. A quick glance at a child’s tear-streaked face is not enough. A quick glance at a sunset that smears the sky with the colors of a neon sign is not enough. A quick glance at one’s own heart is not enough.
    These are matters that require prolonged gazing, lengthy contemplation, lingering consideration. These are matters the essence of which are revealed only with the investment of deep and sometimes painful examination.
    Like the tide, these are matters of mystery and magic. Like the tide, their rhythms are ebb and flow. But like the tide, they can be trusted.
    One of the things about the beach that always amazes me is that the constant movement can seem so still, that the noise can seem so quiet. That in that place and in that moment I can seem so still and quiet.
    I looked down at the water slapping the rocks beneath me. The tide, I could tell, was coming in.
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