Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Highest Tide - A Tribute to Marine Life

I just finished The Highest Tide, a novel by Jim Lynch, and I loved it. At the beginning I was thinking about how slow it was going with all the marine-life description, but that was part of the charm of this coming-of-age book about the summer of a 13-year-old boy who discovers a giant squid, a rare starfish, and many other strange things in Puget Sound near his home on Olympia’s coast. We come to love this curious and intelligent boy; Lynch successfully takes us into his head and allows us to feel what it’s like to love nature and be conflicted about growing up. “People usually take decades to sort out their view of the universe, if they bother to sort at all. I did my sorting during one freakish summer in which I was ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine.”

We get a ton of philosophical views here, including many from Rachel Carson who wrote in The Sea Around Us, “’There is no drop of water in the ocean, not even in the deepest parts of the abyss, that does not know and respond to the mysterious forces that create the tide.’ How do you read that sentence, yawn and turn out the lights?” And how do you read his descriptions of life in the sea without being intrigued?" The narrator writes: “Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light.” As he grows and synchronicity and the responsive universe happens to him, he writes “It wasn’t that I was starting to feel that I actually had some higher calling, it’s that I’d begun to feel as though I’d received a bigger role than I’d auditioned for.” Miles said people need to pay attention, and then they did. They came out to the Bay and started categorizing all the sea life and found it amazing, all those scientists and people who lived there who thought they knew what was going on but didn’t. “At the end of The Sea Around Us, she [Carson] summed up the entire history and role of the ocean in two sentences: ‘In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life and receives in the end, after, it may be, many transmutations, the dead husks of that same life. For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.’”

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