The Spike or Victoria University College Review
Time and Tide
Time and Tide
I am a goldminer; some would call me a "beachcomber," a seeker of gold on the sea margin. For a score of years, nearly one-fourth of my life, I have sought to reap a harvest from the sea, cradling and washing the gravel thrown up from the sea floor and winning from the line streaming wash pure and lustrous gold. Every day I cross from my cosy hut beneath yonder flowering rata to the gray stepping stones, launch my boat and row down this placid, land-locked lagoon to where it melts into the open, shimmering sea.
Many years ago, when boys, we eagerly discussed common aims and hopes and ambitions. That was in a land beyond the seas which I shall never see again. I wonder how many of us attained our ideals. Soon after, when the yew and elm trees were breaking into leaf, and the hawthorn hedges tilled with green, I stole away from my father's home and boarded a ship dropping down the brimming Thames. Before we had cleared the English Channel I had been disillusioned, and fain would—But that is past, and my sea wandering is over. Here on the gleaming beach there is ruby-coloured sand, and I set up my gold washing cradle. There is no time to be lost, for soon the tide will have slipped back and left uncovered the golden gravel; in five hours the sea will make again and end for a span my gold-winning. "Time and tide wait for no man." Throughout the long summer months, when the tide serves twice in the light of day, the sea uncovers the beach and I go forth to my gold-seeking. Beneath the azure sky, in this season when the forest on the sea edge is ablaze with crimson, and the mountain peaks beyond are veiled with summer mist, my life with joy is complete. All day long the snowy gulls wheel friendly above me, mewing plaintively in the lull of the surf beat. Beside me as I work there is a rhythmic tapping of flax blades and a gentle rustle of toi-toi on the sloping grassy bank. I break my work and climb above the beach to eat my frugal meal and renew my strength. It is the hour of sunset, and the sun slowly slips beneath the farthest wave beyond Cape Foul wind. The waters of page 23 the wide bay are darkening even where the mighty Buller mingles with the sea and the lofty mountain chain behind is silhouetted against the glowing west. But listen! The unquiet ebbing of the tide has ceased, and it flows again. The moon in silver glory has risen, and by its light I quickly sift the sand from the shingle and wash it over the quicksilvered plate. The sea is very calm and beautiful to-night. Each wave tipped with a moonbeam races silently out of the depths and breaks at my feet, sweetly murmuring. At last one greater than all the rest falls with a muffled roar upon the shingle, and hastily I gather my amalgam and leave the tide to its flooding. Towards the rata clumps, standing like giants in the night-haze, I turn my boat, and with steady stroke, even if less powerful than in former years, I row till the prow gently strands on the pebbly beach beside; my home.
One day I will row up that peaceful lagoon for the last time. I have laid aside no treasure on this earth and I shall be taken to sit upon the sunny side of a home for those who have neared the allotted span of life.
I only ask that I may still be near the sea.
J. F. Thompson.