One of the joys of life as a retiree is having the time to watch the tide come in. Pointless? Maybe. Time-wasting? Certainly. Enjoyable? Extremely.

At a different seaside, in another age, I would watch fascinated as the sea crept in. A moment’s distraction, and it has advanced further, while you’re not looking. Beautiful, relentless, magical. I loved it, as a child. There was neither time nor opportunity to do this during my working life, so it’s a particular delight to return to this simple childhood pleasure.

And it is every bit as pleasing now as it was then. That stealthy, inexorable creep of the water, ripple by ripple; parched seaweed clumps revived, and waving with joy at the return of the sea; little crabs and shrimps advancing happily as the sand is reclaimed and turned from land to seabed. Inch by inch, the beach being covered by the ocean all over again, until the time comes at last: high tide! I could watch it for hours, and I do. Wasting time standing and staring is a guilty pleasure, indeed.


I was going to point out the parallel with working on a book. Growing bit by bit, advancing, creeping forwards – that sort of nonsense. But I won’t. For me, watching the tide come in is purpose enough in itself. I don’t need to justify it, and it’s never time ill-spent. If I happen to be walking along Smallmouth Beach and find the tide coming in, I will find the time to stop and look.

There is much to be learned from watching and waiting, from nature in action, from seeing the passage of time made visible by the water advancing on the beach, and these things are not always measurable. You might say it’s wasteful dawdling, I would disagree. It’s one of the joys of life.


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