Where I Go When My Mind Won’t Shut Up

Some evenings my mind keeps spinning, recounting events from the day, pondering all sorts of things and keeping me from a good nights sleep. Fortunately, when this happens, I can close my eyes and think myself back to something I could call my happy place. Which, actually is a place that physically exists – at the other end of the world.

It’s called Long Reef Cliff, and it is a nature reserve located between Fisherman’s and Long Reef Beach north of Sydney. I visited it on January 11th in 2013. I honestly ended up there by accident, as I had missed my bus stop on a trip to the Northern Beaches. Instead of taking the next bus back, I went down to the beach and was immediately drawn to this red cliff rising above the ocean towards the beaches south end. So, I decided to skip the bus and see if there was a way to walk back along the cliff.

It was a spontaneous and straightforward decision, but somehow it still has quite an influence on my life today. Lying in bed almost four years later, I can again feel the breeze, smell the air and hear the waves crashing onto the beach. Every moment of my walk along the cliff is so vivid in my mind, as if a small part of me is still there, climbing around these rock plateaus, staring down into all those little puddles filled with life.

Reading the travel diary I kept back then it seems like I must have already felt this on that day. I was so overwhelmed that I only managed to write down my thoughts about this place one day later. All I could note on the same day was the following:

“Probably the most beautiful day so far. There are so many impressions, feelings and thoughts about today, I cannot write them down right now. Just one thing: How much life can hide inside a tiny puddle of salt water? These are worlds, planets and galaxies of their own.”

The next morning, I seemed to have come to terms with the beauty of it all. I wrote the following:

“I took about a million pictures to try and capture the beauty of this place – a walk across stone plateaus full of life – small rivers meandering between the stones, creating whole new worlds inhibited by tiny crabs, seashells, corals and starfish. Then there was the light, those black and red rocks and the sand in all kinds of shades from beige to red to black and orange. I was awfully delighted to have discovered this place and I could have spend hours exploring those cliffs.”

I also noted that everything, work, all things digital, everything felt so far away at that moment. Instead, I was reminded of my childhood dream to become a photographer for the German equivalent of the National Geographic – an explorer of some sorts. It was as if had dreamt about being in this place before I had found it.

I felt so lucky and content. There I was, in my twenties, somewhat grown up and able to just walk along these shores all on my own, with my camera and free of any sorrows. It might be that on this day, I realised that – even though I had not become the photographer I dreamt of as a child–, I was still at a place in my life that was everything that I had wanted. And that everything I had done. Every decision I had made, down to the one of not taking that bus back to my initial stop, had led me to this place and this moment in my life.

Maybe that’s why this experience felt so intense and why I have not forgotten it since. It must have touched something deep inside me. Like an urge, I had felt since I was a little kid. I have explored quite a few places and cities since then. But, every time I lie in bed, unable to sleep, it’s this place I think of. Then I quickly will fall asleep, but I will always stay there for a little bit longer in my dream …

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