I've been staying up north the past couple weeks in preparation for the upcoming deployment. As such, I've driven the California coastline (or sat in traffic) more than a few times. Each time I look along the coast, I can't help but to remember the miles and the lessons I learned on that 161 mile run. Except for the times I've driven the route in the dark. In dark I don't see the blue sea or the green hills. I don't get that instant feeling of joy, accomplishment, sobriety, that I got during those 161 miles. Why? Because it's dark? Because I don't see the waves? The trails? The lessons? Well, yes. Since I've been a child I've hated the dark, been scared of it. I can remember coming home from college the first time and driving up in to the yard because my Mom forgot to leave the outside light on. Or the time I bribed my fire watch partner at OCS to stay with me as we patrolled the parking lot in the dark Quantico night. I hate the dark. It scares me. It hides all the beauty of the world.
Fast forward to ultra running. There is something about when the sun sets during a run that just crushes my soul. It's how the kids at Hogwarts feel when the dementors show up - like I'll never feel happiness again. I mean I know the sun is going to rise again (or more scientifically accurate the earth will rotate into the light again). But there is this small fear that maybe today will be different. Maybe today the sun won't come up, it'll all be over, and all those beautiful views will be gone - forever.
But would they? I mean just because we don't see something, does it mean it's not there? Are the seven wonders crumbling if we don't look at them? Is the sea any less majestic at night? Are those breathtaking views, the ones that make you believe there must be a God. Are they only sacred if you experience them?
Of course not, we cannot be that arrogant or self-centered. We cannot believe that things only exist as we experience them. We can't possibly believe that perception really is reality. Those trails, those hills, those lessons are there. Just waiting. The mountains are there in the dark. The miles are there in the future. The pain and its lessons are there in our past. They are all there, whether we see them or not.
The same goes for people, for friendships, for memories. Just because they aren't there right now or because we can't touch them, or even speak to them; it doesn't mean they aren't there. There's this theory of time, Kurt Vonnegut among others, writes about it, saying that everything that has happened is still happening - in that moment. So your favorite hug, reunion, kiss, birth, memory, is still happening, and will happen forever in that moment. Sure you can't see it now. But that doesn't mean it's gone. A mile in the dark is still a mile. A mountain, still a mountain. This is a comforting thought.
It's a thought that allows us to keep pushing on in the dark. It's one that allows us to leave the places, and the people we love. It's what allows us to look towards the next race, the next sunrise. It's what allows us to smile and wave goodbye. Because we don't need to be scared of the dark. We don't need to be scared that we'll forget what we can't see. We don't need to be scared that it's not there anymore. It's still there. In that moment. And moments are permanent.
"All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I said before, bugs in amber." - K.V.