For the past week, I have been staying with my three children in a small cottage overlooking a beautiful salt marsh off the southern Maine coast. Watching the fascinating tidal ebb and flow throughout the day has me pondering lessons from a salt marsh.
On the surface, it seems very straight forward. When the tide is in everything looks lush and full of life. High tide carries rich nutrients upstream to nourish the tiny creatures living in the grass and mud. It offers protection to the juvenile sea life spending the first portion of their life cycle tucked away. It looks and feels lush and vibrant. Similarly, in the high tides of our life, we have all the resources we need. We are well nourished and safe. We feel the rhythm of life flowing through our bones with little worries.
When the tide goes out, it looks as though the swamp has been drained with the dark, stinky mud flats exposed to the elements. This is a time when birds and some mammals, like the fox family we have been seeing, venture out to pluck up tasty meals. The low tide salt marsh seems to exude danger. Even the rotten egg stench indicates to the untrained observer death and dying. The life lessons of salt marsh suggests that in the low tides of our life we are vulnerable and needy. We appear to lack resources and to be laid bear for attack.
And yet, the tide always comes back in. There is eternal promise of the next tide; arise always follows an ebb and an ebb always follows a tide. An invisible life force, the pull between the earth and the moon drives these changes and even charts the extremes. With a full moon in the sky, the marsh appears to fill to overload. As I witness most of the marsh disappear beneath the waters, I wonder how the marsh creatures could withstand the flood.
I realize with true awe the greatest lesson of the salt marsh is that each tidal cycle and phase of the moon are in divine order. Even the seasonal changes that bring colder weather and the shedding of old sea grasses allow the forming of nutrient rich “wrack” for another stage of life for marsh organisms. The salt marsh, like our lives, is a complex, rich web of interconnected events that are critical to the vitality of its inhabitants. We, like the salt marsh, will experience highs and lows; points of overflow and die off. We are not less, but rather more, because of the ying and yang of these cycles. We, like the creatures of the mud flats, are born not only to withstand, but to thrive through both the peaks and troughs; times of abundance and dirth. Let us hold these reminders with us as we journey across the landscape of our lives.
May it be so!