The Slack Tide – a poem for 2021 by Helen McKinlay

Walking on the beach

I heard a sudden silence

as if the universe had stopped.

The water waveless now

and calm.

And in that time

the world and I became as one

and peace and clarity abounded.

I hold this image close now.

It reminds me that in life

when the tide keeps crashing in

and my brain and body fight

for a pathway through the flotsam

I too, can create a slack tide

within the quiet breath of stillness.


In mid January 2016 I posted a piece about slack tides. I hadn’t written the poem then. I wrote that today. It seemed like a good image to hold to in this coming new year. Sometimes the overwhelm is too much isn’t it? And it seems like we are powerless but we do have the power to take a few moments to stop and breathe. It’s hard to do that of course, when one is feeling overloaded. So as we all enter 2021, I wish everyone hope, peace, wellness. Be kind to yourselves …and kind to each other.

My original inspiration for the poem and more about slack tides.

Was walking with a friend at the beach. We discussed the tide…you know the sort of thing. ‘I think it’s still coming in….but look see here’ and the other replies ‘Well it’s right up to the bank over there. We should change direction.’ And so on etc. It was difficult to tell that morning and we did change direction not wanting to have to climb over high rocks to  get back if we got stuck. Instead we walked around to where the sea was filling up the estuary. The water was fairly calm but there must have been a sound of lapping, for suddenly all was silent.

It was like the world stopped so immense was the silence. Reverentially we held our breaths for a short time. And just as quickly as the sound had stopped it began again as the tide began its inexorable outward journey. And the waves did their thing where they unroll like an escaped paper towel along the sand’s length.

Apparently this pause is known as a slack tide. Wikipedia describes it thus, ‘Slack water, which used to be known as ‘the stand of the tide‘, is a short period in a body of tidal water when the water is completely unstressed, and there is  no movement either way in the tidal stream. This occurs before the direction of the tidal stream reverses.

Rototai Inlet

If you are interested in tides and their whys and wherefores you can check out this site here. The photo on the left is the nearest I can get to one of a slack tide. But it’s where I was the day I experienced the above. Motupipi Inlet, Rototai Beach, Aotearoa New Zealand. Blessings and aroha for 2021 to all my friends and followers.