759: Gitanjali 60

759: Gitanjali 60

759: Gitanjali 60


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I grew up about an hour from the Sonoma Coast in California. On hot summer days, if we were lucky, my parents would drive me and my brother through Petaluma, down Old Adobe Road and out to the Bay Highway to Bodega Bay or Dillon Beach or up to Goat Rock. Even on warm days the water was near freezing, and still my brother and I would play for hours on the beach., crafting sandcastles or body surfing in the waves while our parents unpacked coolers full of peanut butter sandwiches and snacks. Some of my best memories were made at the beach. It was one of the places my brother and I never fought. At the beach we were friends, coworkers in sand and saltwater. No one could shout over the ocean, anyway.

I loved how loud it was, how it made everything feel small, unimportant, those boats on the horizon looked like little toys being tossed around on the cold Pacific waters. Once I just shouted at the ocean and made up songs for it and talked to it for a whole hour and no one around me could seemingly hear me. I was drowned out by the ocean and I loved it. It wasn’t shouting back or matching my drama, it just did it naturally. Drama was all the ocean knew how to do.

Earlier this year, I was at a tropical beach with friends and their six year old boys. The adults were snorkeling and looking for colorful fish in the bright turquoise water, but I chose to stay with the two kiddos and play in the waves at the shore. We were laughing so hard that it hurt. We’d pretend the sea was out to get us and then collapse when a wave would knock us down. I remember thinking, here we are in the middle of the pandemic, on the brink of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and still these children could play in the shoreline with all the sweet earnestness of youth. That is the power of the ocean and the spell it casts.

Today’s poem is about the innocence of children playing on the shore. I hope it’s something we never lose.

Gitanjali 60
by Rabindranath Tagore

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless
overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds
the children meet with shouts and dances.

They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With
withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast
deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.

They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive
for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and
scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to
cast nets.

The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a
mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale
gleams the smile of the sea-beach.

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the 
pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and
children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of

This poem is in the public domain.