I can stare at waves for a long time without being bored.

Surfers study waves – not like scientists – but they study them for sure. I don’t study them. I let them hypnotize me. Or maybe it’s a form of meditation.

Years ago, when I went for a weekend sesshin at a Zen monastery, my wife asked what it was that I was supposed to learn there. “Sit for a sustained period, be still, and empty my mind of thoughts.”  She said, “Oh. You should be great at that.”

I never considered waves as being similar to lines in a poem, until I read a post, “Shore Lines” (A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line) by poet Camille Dungy.

“Since I think waves can rhyme, it may come as no surprise that I think ideas can rhyme too. I like to end lines this way, following conceptual rhymes, carrying the basic elements of an idea from one line to the next in the same way one might carry a certain element of sound throughout a poem…

If a poem is broken into lines, you tend to know what’s coming: each line will need, in some potentially predictable way, to end. If a poem has good linebreaks, there will still be plenty of opportunity for surprise. That’s a huge part of the pleasure of poetry. That’s why I love the moment of return, the abrupt interruption, the edge, the beach, the tide break, the line-break, the shore.”

What did the ancient Greeks and Romans think about the tides? Not much. the differences between high and low tides around the Mediterranean Sea are only around a foot. That’s not enough to affect fishermen and mariners very much and so the “natural scientists” of the time didn’t think about any rhythms of the tides. Still, I have to believe that when they saw waves breaking on a shore, they had to feel that rhythm.

They felt the circadian rhythms. Everyone recognizes the heartbeat and the pulse within themselves.  Those are the meter, the line breaks, even the stanzas that I hear when I meditate.

As Dungy writes, it is “the abrupt interruption, the edge, the beach, the tide break, the line-break, the shore.”

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