Sunday, October 20, 2013

King Tides and the Pull of the Moon

We recently walked to the beach--nothing unusual there.  But as we walked down from the bridge that connects the barrier island that is Hollywood Beach to the mainland, we noticed lots of standing water on the streets that lead to the beach.  What had happened? A burst water main?

Nope.  Just a King Tide.  It happens every year around October or November.  The moon and the sun align in a certain way, and when the moon is full, the streets flood.  Our beach area streets only flood ankle deep.  Some surrounding beaches reported even deeper water.  This year we got 9-14 inches of extra water.

It's what we can expect in the future.  By the year 2030, the projections call for that much extra water to be part of regular tides, not just seasonal strangeness.

Readers of this blog know that sea level rise is never far from my mind, especially now that we've moved closer to the ocean.  My first thought on hearing the various stories about the South Florida King Tide:  great, my street seems pretty dry.

But then I thought about the fact that global warming is happening faster than we thought it would.  What if we have 18-28 inches of extra water by 2030?  Or worse?

And it's not just street flooding.  It's salt water intrusion into ground water.  It's the sewers backing up.  It's unaffordable flood insurance.

As I've said before, we're surrounded by signs that we're not here very long.  I'll keep sea level rise projections in my head, while I do my best to enjoy every aspect of living in South Florida, now, while I still can.

Last night I decided to walk to the beach to watch the full moon rise at 7:24 p.m.  What a treat.  I can't always get there for moonrise, but I want to do it more often.

I took my camera and tried a variety of shots, but I got nothing good--until I walked home and turned around to take shots of the lights changing on the bridge.  Here's my favorite shot:

I love the different light qualities in one shot:  the spookiness of the blue, the haze of the street lights that reminds me of London in the 19th century, and the cold wafer of the moon in the background.

It reminds of a poem that I wrote way back in 1996, when I first returned to writing poetry.  I'd been writing poems since I was 14, and then I went to grad school in 1987.  I didn't write poems again until 1995.  In some ways, that's not a very long gap.  But I thought I'd lost poetry forever, and I was profoundly grateful to return or to have it return to me, which was how I experienced it:  the prodigal muse coming home.

I wrote the poem below, which appealed to me at the time, although I know that writing poems about the moon is fraught with danger:  the danger of triteness, the danger of using a tired metaphor, the danger of not even knowing that one is veering into the land of sentimental or non-scientific, or . . .

Still, this post requires a poem about the pull of the moon or maybe I simply want to post this poem. 

It's a first person voice, but I should hasten to add that it doesn't describe my reality.  I used to use first person all the time, thinking that it made the poem more immediate and intense.  I didn't realize how many people would assume that I was talking about myself.

Maybe I'll write a poem for the self at midlife, not the self in adolescent agony.  I am now the moon, stuck in various orbits, yearning to pull free, but leaving all sorts of tides and floods in my wake.  I am now the moon, cold and distant and unaware of flooded streets.

Hmm.  I'm not sure I like that vision of a self any better than the one in the poem below.  But it could make an interesting poem.  I'll putter with that possibility, and you should feel free to play along.  It's an interesting issue for creative writing classes:  can you use a symbol that is so drenched with meaning and history--like the moon--and make it new?

Now, the poem:

Yearning for the Moon

Like the sea yearning for the moon,
I’d follow you anywhere,
my salty, tear-stained emotions
always at high tide,
while you remain
a cold, cratered chunk of rock,
only reflecting my radiance.
I try to pull out of your orbit;
I crash against the shores of other lovers
only to find that they sink
beneath me.

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