Slack Tide

Boat in sunset Slack Tide

Slack Tide at Taunton Bay, Sullivan, Maine

Oddly enough, this canoe facing a setting sun reminds me of two people, my grandmother Viola Bancroft Preble (1886-1973) and Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). They never met but briefly were contemporaries! My grandmother loved to read his poetry to us when we were children. One might question the appropriateness of reading The Charge of the Light Brigade or Crossing the Bar to seven- or eight-year old’s, but she loved drama and literature, and we loved her and listening to her. And we were not traumatized!

In Crossing the Bar, Tennyson metaphorically envisions his life finishing at a “slack tide”, that moment when the tide is full and when the sea quietly awaits the transition from in-coming to out-going. It is the turning of tides when movement stops before reversal. Such is the twilight moment of “crossing the bar” when mortality transitions to immortality, when the spirit silently leaves its earthly abode and enters the after life.

Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tennyson saw no need for drama, for moaning, or for a sad farewell at his death which he approached calmly and unafraid because He had faith in the One who had guided him through life, the One who had risen from the dead and had promised to prepare a place for him, the same One of whom the Psalmist spoke:“For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48:14)“You will guide me with your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:24)

The confident expectation of those who believe is well stated, “I hope to see my Pilot face to face , When I have crossed the bar.”


Meet Chris Mace

Christopher Mace graduated from Bowdoin College and Tufts University School of Medicine.  Served as a Navy Doctor in Vietnam and has practiced medicine in Downeast Maine since 1970.  He is now an Elder at United Baptist Church in Ellsworth Maine.  Chris is the author of two books, Listening to God and Dancing with God.  You can read more from Chris here:  He is married and has four children and three grand children. 

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