On the coast, you always see people at the water early in the morning, before the day has started. Sometimes taking photos, sometimes just soaking it in. Sometimes they have company, sometimes they are on their own. They have seen the water a million times, they live here. They aren’t tourists.
But still, it holds something magical in that it can never be the same, and you can never be the same afterwards either.
In 2013, in the midst of a depressive bout (the only one that I have ever been diagnosed with or medicated for, but it is not an outlier – I’ve had them since forever, this was just the one I could not manage) – I thought about how light changes even what it does not touch. In a dark space, even if the light cannot illuminate the hole you have dug for yourself, it’s presence changes you and changes the space – it’s not for you – but you know it’s there.
It doesn’t matter if it’s water or mountains or trees or clouds or whatever stands before you in the outside space, it is never the same. And you are never the same. The process of being changed is what brings you back to the water or the mountain.
It is the same reason why people run: to seek out some great unknown within themselves that they haven’t discovered yet, to experience living change from the day before, to know that they are not the same as they were when they woke up that morning, ate what they always ate, performed the same routines that they always have, answered the same “what can I have for breakfast?” question with the same answer they have given for the last 100 times the question was asked.
So they can look at the water and see the ripples are a different shape and the sun has a different brilliance and the pelican is quite intent on fishing instead of gliding.
When I moved here at the end of 2013, I was quitting smoking and running every day. I was time poor and I had limited light to deal with and no street lights to speak of in the country, so I ran the same route every day. Without realising it, I started a challenge of taking a photo every time I was out there. Sometimes it felt like pulling teeth, sometimes it felt like a creative gift. The structure of finding something new, eventually revealed the truth that even the same 8km loop over and over and over again was not ever the same. Not only was it not the same in it’s entirety but also not the same in any small part of it either.
It was always changing, and I was too.
I hung onto smoking for grim life, obviously because I was addicted, but for other reasons as well. Some where obvious: it filled a need – whether that was something to do with my hands or a way to suppress emotions or just a way to be less awkward – but some reasons were less obvious. I held onto bad habits like precious jewels, because it meant I never had to change, not really. I could be safe in knowing I was just not good enough at anything and I could just keep on setting my body up to fail to prove my point.
Once you allow yourself to be changed, it’s scary because you have to accept that you are capable of anything and that all of those ideas that you carried like invisible weights anchoring you to the places where you never leave and never adapt can’t keep you where you are anymore.
And you change.
You aren’t a tourist looking at the water on your run. And you aren’t a tourist in your own life.