The rule of twelfths

I majored in History, not English Lit. I guess that’s a way of saying I am not a big metaphor guy. But there’s something about the tide that has always fascinated me. Every day, just over six hours apart, there are two low and two high tides. I used to kayak a lot and if you didn’t know about the rule of twelfths, you could get yourself in trouble quickly (and as I discovered on too many occasions, even if you did, tide troubles could easily descend upon you). Here’s what I remember of the rule. 1,2,3,3,2,1. Add those six numbers up and you get 12. In the first hour of a tide change, 1/12 of the water will flow; hour two, 2/12; hour three, 3/12 and so on. So if you are paddling against the tide during the first hour or last hour of a tide change, you’ll have a little flow running against you. During hours three and four, however, heaven help you. But that, of course, depends. Down here at my cottage just below Savannah, we get some serious tide changes. Eight, ten, twelve feet. That depends too. This morning, the high tide out my door is way high, about as high as I ever seen it. The line between the river and the marsh is almost gone. Must be close to a full moon as the gravitational pull of the moon is responsible for the tides, but there’s also a stiff wind out of the northeast pushing the water inland. Like I said, I know a little but not too much. In any event, I know the tide is up and you ought to be able to see the same from the shot below.

With the loss that’s approaching, it’s been a long and difficult fall season in my life. That said, each and every day has been different. Not as predictable as the tides, for sure. Some days, there are no high tides and on others, there have been no lows. Nothing so predictable as 1,2,3,3,2,1. And certainly, with a particular visit or phone call with my dad, it sure has felt like the tide is rushing at full speed against all good things. Full moon, full wind, wrong direction. And then, in a few moments, or hours, or days, the wind has settled, a crescent moon is high in the sky, and some peace comes. I dip my paddle in the water and my boat skims along sweetly. It helps to be near the water and be able to see, feel and smell the tide come and go. I’m glad I am here today.

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