The Pull of the Tides

The tide –

a grand uncanny:

water pulling back

and pushing forward,

water in transit as we transit,


the moon transits and

nothing is


still, is it?

2. The tide sucks water through the sand forming fine-branched crevasses: a genealogy of rock particles.


4. Different colored grains of sand come to rest at different places according to their weight and shape: a periodic table of sand.

6. Waves throw rocks into driftwood depressions; if they fit snugly, maybe they’ll be there for a fortnight or two.

7. The swish and crash of water carves driftwood into smoother and smoother forms; the wood is like tough muscles awaiting the next task.


11. A bed of Bull-whip kelp reveals the ebb and flow of the water: an EKG of tidal heartbeats.

12. A seaweed Mobius strip turns in and around itself, like the swirling eddies of water that left it here on the beach.

13. A sheen of moisture is left behind as a wave recedes. As soon as it appears, it evaporates. It can’t be grasped. Where is it?



Getting a little more concrete about the “Grand Uncanny”

Several times each day water is pulled back and forth by the mingling of lunar and solar gravitational forces with the earth’s rotation. Wind, weather and even the shape of the land can play a part in these complex liquid movements that we call tides.

The most common type of tidal cycles are semi-diurnal tides. These consist of two high tides of about the same height and two low tides, also about the same height, each day. Semi-diurnal tides occur on Europe’s Atlantic coast and on America’s Atlantic coast, where I first experienced the ocean as a young girl. Our family vacationed at my maternal grandparents’ home on a coastal barrier island every spring. There, I watched migrating birds, ghost crabs and coquina clams on wide, sandy beaches with the Atlantic as a backdrop. I took the regularity of the tides for granted. We planned activities around them, like walking way out to a spit of land only accessible at low tide, or going to the dock to catch Blue crabs with baited traps at high tide. If I was at the ocean it was the Atlantic, and understanding the tides was straightforward. I just needed to visualize the smooth oscillations of high and low tides on a tide chart and remember that the peaks and troughs would hit around 45 minutes later each day.

Then I moved to the West coast. Actually, I was far from the actual coast, which was a place to visit from time to time for a change of scenery. The pounding surf, beautiful blue-green water and mammoth logs littering the shores of Washington, Oregon and California took my breath away. Amid all that drama I paid no attention to the tides. Then we moved again, this time to a small island far from the Pacific ocean but surrounded by salt water thanks to its location near the end of a long strait that is so big it’s called the Salish Sea. Living here has prompted me to get to know the tides again, but I didn’t know how complex tidal cycles can be.

The tidal cycles here are called mixed semi-diurnal tides: there are two unequal low tides and two unequal high tides each day. There are higher high tides and lower high tides, and lower low tides and higher low tides. Did you get that? Apparently mixed tides are a West coast thing, occurring from Mexico to Alaska, along the Chilean coast and in some other locations. My (east coast native) partner likes to theorize about the congruence between left coast attitudes and left coast tides. I thought all tides were as regular as the semi-diurnal ones back on the east coast, but when I look at a local tide table I see irregular waves, with peaks and troughs that vary from deep to average to almost non-existent. Here’s an example: the tide chart for December 25th, 2019.

In addition to daily tidal cycles there are spring and neap tides, which occur everywhere but which, to my mind, might make predicting tides here even more challenging. Spring and neap tides are tidal changes (also called differentials) that are bigger or smaller, depending on the moon phase. At the new and full moon the earth, moon and sun line up and their gravitational pull increases, making high tides higher and low tides lower. At the quarter moons the gravitational pull is lessened, resulting in lower high tides and higher low tides. The upshot is that tide charts are essential around here, whether you’re going fishing, want an easier time getting your kayak in the water, or are looking for Geoducks.

If you read this far you know that much more can be said about that Grand Uncanny we call the tides. Maybe I’ll write again as I learn more. For now just remember: ebb and flow, ebb and flow, ebb and flow….

15. Mew gulls pick through tidal leavings along a Fidalgo Island beach on a quiet winter evening.



  1. Lynn, I simply love this. Your magical photos drew me in with their beach patterns and shapes – your awareness of the nature’s details is always a treat. Then I settled into learning more about the tides. I didn’t know that East and West were different. As photographers we mustn’t be fooled by the tides. I’ve had my share of calamities. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had no idea about the different tide cycles and I have to admit, I was flummoxed when I first looked at a local tide table. What would we do without google? πŸ˜‰ I think the chance of having problems from not paying attention to tides around here is greater for boaters than walkers. So far I’m a walker. In the places where you might want to walk around rocks during a genuinely low tide, you can always return to your starting point via the woods if the tide has come in and your beach path has disappeared. (Did that make sense?) I’m really glad you like the photos, Jane.! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, wowee, Adrian, that’s cool! At first, this post wasn’t coming together at all – text and images both had problems. I sat it out for a day or so and came back. I took out a few photos that were jarring, rearranged the rest, and moved the text from the top to the bottom, and of course, rewrote a zillion times. #9 is a bit of an outlier I think but I liked it. I went back to color efex for some of these, using things like the solarization filter and adjusting further back in Lr. I think those are gull tracks in #3 but I still haven’t sorted out the gulls here. Thanks for your enthusiasm, it means a lot. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. stunning photos as always, those first few like shot silk – always your great love of texture — another tide phenomenon I’ve only heard about since moving from river/lake country to the West Coast is the King Tide — I’ve not yet seen it ‘live’ at its height, but have walked shoreline soon after and been awe-struck

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, texture grabs me. I think I have an inkling of what you mean about being at the shoreline after a King tide. Maybe we’ll have one this winter, during a storm. I keep thinking I should document the positions of those giant logs and see how/when they move. Have you wondered about that too?

      Oh, look what I found – January 9-13 and February 7-11 are forecast to have higher than normal high tides next year. “A perigean spring tide will be occurring in January and February. This is when the moon is either new or full and closest to earth. Higher than normal high tides and lower than normal low tides will occur.” This is from a US gov. website but would apply to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Lynn, thank you very much for these pictures and information about the beloved sea! Salt water, sand, driftwood, pebbles and seaweed are the things that nature builds my happiness from. Although “my” seas are the North Sea as part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea, the Pacific does not offer too much different pictures. And if it did, all the better!
    I did not know that there are different rhythms of ebb and flow depending on which coast and sea you are on. Your explanations about the tides I found extremely instructive. And the photos were, as always, pure enjoyment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know how important the sea is to you…I’m thinking of Rugen, and the beautiful photos you took there…:-)
      I’m glad the text was instructive – it takes a bit of work to make these things clear. Thank you, Ule. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting about the complexities of these tides.
    The driftwood, sand, and pebble shots are wonderful, I love seeing the polished stones sorted & nestled in #6 as if by a jeweler. And that first shot really caught me, the sand looks like that crusty old rock is trying on a wrinkled grey flannel suit.
    Is “The Grand Uncanny” from D. H. Lawrence? It’s a great phrase for this album and tides.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The grand uncanny was from my brain, and I knew it was a bit out there but I liked it, so I went with it. I’m sure you understand! Thanks for thinking some writer thought it up. πŸ˜‰ I like the “mind picture” you describe of the crusty old rock and gray flannel suit. It was a nice juxtaposition, the rock and sand. Thank you Robert, and thank you once more for your flights of fancy.


  5. I learn so much when I come here. I have never seen a geoduck before. I wonder how many other things there are that I’ve never heard of before? (Answer: A LOT) #2 is my favorite here. I love the metallic look.


    • Around our household, we often say, “There’s a LOT we don’t know!” Geoducks (pronounced gooey-dux) are a PNW thing that was also new to me. I can’t say that I’ve tried one, or want to. Re #2, I don’t think I could replicate that strange sheen of the light if I tried, but thank you. πŸ™‚


  6. Wonderful pictures Lynn, especially the “sandpaintings”! And I didn’t know about these different tidetypes, sorry, types of tides! 1, 2 , 3, 6 – incredible these stones in the wood! Never saw a thing like that before. They look beautiful together, so well shaped from water! And the water-wood-sculptures are great. How did you say? “muscles awaiting the next task”. What a fantastic description πŸ™‚ 11, 12, 13. EKG of the tidal heartbeat. You found the right words! I love this series very much. Thank you for seeing and showing πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems that lots of people don’t know about the different types of tide cycles. It was a big surprise. The shapes in the driftwood are seen a lot here (but it isn’t always easy to find a good composition). There are so many trees, they often grow close to the water, they fall in and the waves pound really hard on the west coast, so the beaches are all full of these huge logs. The water-smoothed roots are amazing – they cross each other and grow through each other – you would love it. And the wood does look like muscles, right? I’m glad you liked that idea. πŸ™‚ The EKG idea was a little crazy but I guess it worked. πŸ˜‰
      It’s amazing that there are so many phenomena here that we associate with oceans – the tides, salt-water creatures, etc. – but we’re so far from the coast. And the funny thing is that when we started to come to this region for day trips, we liked it because we were attracted to the open space of the agricultural fields. They are on the mainland just to our east. At first, we didn’t really focus on the water, then we explored a little further and discovered some of the parks on the edge of the island. Now that we live here we are drawn more to the water. The fields are something we do appreciate, but mostly from the car.


    • What a nice reaction you describe – and it’s true, there is no end to things to look at here. No end to things to photograph either, and I suppose it’s a good place to think about life. πŸ™‚ Maybe I should think about doing a post just on driftwood sometime. It can be hard to find the right angle but there’s a lot of driftwood here and I’m sure I could get enough images together for a post. Thank you so much for your comment – I appreciate it!


  7. So lovely. The non-concrete part had me on a lovely ebb and flow of thought and feeling and the rest was fascinating. I’ve always thought I knew tides since I’ve been a coast hopper all of my life, but I didn’t know there was such a difference between east and west US coasts. I like the idea that it influences the mindsets, although I think it has more to do with the longevity of the settlements and the renegade nature it took to ‘go west’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s crazy, isn’t it, that the tide cycles are so different on each coast, and yet it seems (at least from the limited perspective of this blog) that many of us are unaware of those differences. Equating a mindset with the tides was really a joke, but it was irresistible. It’s interesting though that even now when the world is so different than it was in the 1800s, there are still fundamental differences in the cultures of the east and west coasts. I appreciate that you willingly enter into my “non-concrete” wanderings, Sheri! πŸ™‚ Thank you for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I especially like your tight framing in #2.

    Etymology offers an insight into tide, the English word for the phenomenon you devoted much of your text to. The original meaning was ‘a division of time’ (compare the German cognate Zeit, as in Zeitgeist, the spirit of a particular time). The cycles (regular or irregular) so evident in the oceans’ tides eventually led the meaning of the English word to shift from the timing of the rising and falling water to the rising and falling water itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve, it’s funny you mention the framing in #2 because in an earlier version it was not so tightly framed. Sometimes we need to keep looking and tweaking. I didn’t think to look into the etymology for “tide” so I appreciate your discussion about it – very interesting! And the word is still tied to the concept of time. Wow, an unintentional pun there – Steve, you’re having an influence on me! πŸ˜‰


  9. In this collection you have encapsulated the ability of the sea to shape the shoreline. At one extreme you show the power of the waves to erode. shape or.even,impale any obstruction. But you have also captured the magical, hypnotic patterns left behind at low ride. Like you, I am fascinated by this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It was a pleasure to read this tidal lesson. I did not know this irregularity between the east and west coast. We are always learning!
    The photos that illustrate the text are wonderful. Just the kind of photos I love and where the detail, texture, rhythm and lines are a poem of nature. Beautiful.

    (the geoducks are really strange and big bivalves!)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your poem is beautiful, Lynn. And your poetic language bleeds into the photo captions. I especially like β€œa periodic table of sand.” Your posts just keep getting better and better. The first photograph may be my favorite, but it’s hard to say. What an array. I love #5 for the design, composition, and color. What amazing color! The pattern and colors in #7 are breathtaking. That’s not to diminish the beauty of the driftwood in #s 8, 9, and 10, though. The wonder of #12 is well accompanied by its caption. Lovely. I love how you handled the lights and darks in #s 13 and 14. Your information about tides is informative and entertaining. I think I’ve said this before: I’m so glad you blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering if some of the captions were a little too out there, so thanks for the vote of confidence. I thin the first photo is kind of Linda-style. πŸ™‚ I’m not sure what that thing is #5 but it made a graceful coda to the “sand paintings” didn’t it? I’ll be exploring that more when the weather and tides are right. When seaweed like the plant in #12 washes up I’m always drawn to it. The water almost always leaves these leafy things in such graceful positions. I decreased the clarity a little on that photo to emphasize the soft curves. Have I said this before? I’m so glad you comment. AND blog. πŸ˜‰ Thank you…


      • Well, to tell the truth, if I had been where you were and seen what you saw, I would indeed have framed #1 as you did! Looking forward to more sand paintings with or without codas. Decreasing the clarity on #12 was clearly a great idea.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. If you were to visit the Texas coast, you’d find a natural tidal range of a couple of inches to about a foot and a half. One result would be that images like the ones you’ve included here would be harder to find, simply because there’s not so much water flowing over the beaches, and it flows with much less force. On the other hand, there is some effect, simply because the beaches are so flat. A six-inch tide can move as much as twenty feet or more inland, so beach campers have to be cautious!

    It certainly is complex. Because of the shape of the Gulf of Mexico basin, some days we have two high and low tides; others only one; others one high and two lows; and still others two highs and one low. The wind plays a role in tide levels, too. During the winter, a strong ‘norther’ can lower the water level as much as six feet — sailboats all around the area begin sitting on their keels and the only water visible in our lake is in dredged channels. In summer, or anytime a strong east or south wind is blowing, the water can come up three or four feet (or even more) and coastal flood warnings are issued: roads close, and water starts sloshing around where it normally isn’t found. When a storm landfall coincides with high tide, it’s not pretty.

    I do love the tides! and I love this post. Your images are wonderful, and make me want to wander down to the beach. Winter actually is the best time for beachcombing and shelling here, so I’ll try to see that world with an eye like yours when I finally make it there! That seaweed Mobius strip is perfection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, fascinating. You have truly gotten to know the Texas gulf tides. I think winter’s best for beachcombing in most places, maybe because there are more storms and fewer people. I’m happy these images make you eager to go to the beach, and I’m sure that when you do, you will find plenty of odds and ends to focus on. I’d like to see what’s there! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh yes I love these too…I love your projects of sand…the textures and lines and the tones you’ve capture are stellar Lynn…beautiful abstractions…one day I would love to live by the sea…today it’s ice cakes for me πŸ™‚πŸ™ƒhave a creative day πŸ’«πŸ€“

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Breathtaking, as always. There are times when your words that go with the images make me suck my breath in.
    “a genealogy of rock particles” and all the rest… such a perfect pairing of words and visuals.
    Sorry, I can’t pick any favorites I LOVE them all, every bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a really beautiful and varied set of images, Lynn. I like #3 especially but also the sand flows and driftwood.

    I’m intrigued by the tides but totally ignorant of them; I suspect that a person can’t really understand them without directly experiencing them over an extended period.

    {I seem to have lost the ability to like posts on many blogs, perhaps those with custom URLs. I think it must be a recent WordPress bug? Anyway, I like the post. πŸ™‚ }

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I was thinking this morning about the gifts that you give, Lynn, with both your splendidly rich posts and your generous, insightful comments. You make wordpress a better community. I know it takes time, effort, and creative energy to interact with all of this in the way you do. I feel happy this morning, and some of it is because of you.

    And I really like tides. The size of them was one of the very cool things about the PNW.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nice set of abstracts (again.) Most folks would just walk past them, not even noticing.

    As a Pacific Northwest diver, tides, and even more so the ebb and flood currents associated with them are of critical interest. Those troughs on the charts you mention drive our dive planning. What days are safest? Often the changes are so extreme it would be dangerous to even attempt a dive, and even when they’re relatively flat we time our dives to coincide with high or low slack.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. On the few occasions I’ve had reason to look up the tides here it’s confused me mightily with the high highs and the low lows and the neaps and all. This helps explain it a little better but I fear it’s something one really has to study and I’ve no particular reason to. Ah but your photographs – this is what it’s really about – the way you’ve captured the tide in its details, in the secrets it leaves behind. I love so many, if only because of your framing, but I think 13 has to be my fave.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. That was awesome! First you shared so many wonderful images of the tidal effects and then gifted us (this is a good day to use that word) with a tides primer that is an eye-opener. I hope that you are able to share more…of course I could use Google to inform myself. We experience the tides whenever we visit Maine and I try to time my visits there to take advantage of them.But I had no knowledge that they can be so different on your coast. I love all those sand patterns the tide left for you to capture and haven’t seen colored sand grains like those before. What a treat this post is, Lynn. ❀

    I had heard of Geoducks from watching Chopped but since they call them by name and don't spell them out I wasn't prepared for the geo and thought it would be gooeyducks. Maybe they are a bit gooey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know there was so much variation either and it was quite a surprise. I’m so glad you enjoyed the text AND the images. It’s possible that you might find colored sand like that in Maine – I don’t know – but I didn’t see it until I looked really carefully, at low tide. Yes, “gooeydux” – another surprise! I’m keeping away from them. πŸ˜‰
      Yesterday I was caught by the tide. I crossed a thin, thin place to walk on an island, checking the tide tables first. The tide was supposed to go out. When I finished my walk and got back to the crossing – no way! Water was rushing through and it was at least 6″ deep for 20 feet or more. It was way too cold to wade across and continue on to the car with soaking wet feet. I had to wait it out as the sun went down; about 45 minutes later the gravel was showing again. Tide tables are not always accurate! πŸ˜‰


      • Yikes! Thank goodness it wasn’t coming in but then I guess you would have waded. In winter, which of course is different here, I wear some mid-shin insulated snow boots so 6″ wouldn’t be a problem…except I did find a small leak in one. I don’t know what I would have done in your situation. Probably make more images in the interim. πŸ™‚ Just glad you were there as tide was going out. I almost got caught once as it was coming in while on Cape Cod. Had a chance to photograph some egrets and lost track of time and the tides. Made it out okay and kept it a secret from Mary Beth. πŸ˜€ I think the tides are possibly more reliable on the east coast but there is always the chance of a rogue wave.
        There is one beach at Acadia, named appropriately Sand Beach, I have yet to visit because it is so popular but it resembles your sands a bit and maybe a close look would find some colored grains.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. With the busy holiday behind us I am getting caught up. I try to visit your blog when I have enough time to see and read as there is always so much to absorb. I really love your intimate landscapes here … displaying so much texture, lines and design!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you had some fun time off. It sounds like it! I know there’s a lot here, and I am happy that you stopped by. Intimate, detailed – that’s the stuff I have always zeroed in on in nature, since I was a child. Thank you, and I wish you a very creative New Year, Denise. πŸ™‚


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