El Médano 8.30 it’s mid-October so it’s just after sunrise. I’m strolling the early morning beach two minutes walk from where I live. The dawn and the sunrise have been inspiring. Instead of running or swimming I’m taking it easy to try to capture with my camera a sense of what the beginnings of my current days are like, recording memories for when I’m far away.
Currently my days begin here. Another early morning camera foray last month revealed a sub-culture of what I think of as “the sunrise folk” – people out at first light, walking, running, swimming, doing yoga and other exercise regimes, and most dominantly, a group of older, er, well-endowed ladies who were featured on local TV in the summer doing their aqua-fitness program. How could I possibly be embarrassed by my buxom-ness and my legacy-of-summer unfitness in this mixed company? Over 50% of them are, well, over 50, and most attempting less than I.
Of course there are the young/fit/beautiful too, but it would be the height of foolishness to compare myself to them after all. I decided that possibly one of the reasons for giving up at the beginning of the summer (using the sore foot as an excuse maybe) was that my route, chosen to keep me away from people in my embarrassment, had become boring, and so I came down to the main beach here, and it has been a delight, stimulation for my soul as well as my body these last, few weeks, and critical glances are cast my way I haven’t noticed!
Glancing inland, I spy Alto de Guajara bathed in rosy sunlight, framed between the town’s apartment blocks. I seek out the mountain most mornings. It reminds me of one my best days in recent years, sleeping in a cave on its flank, to rise early and be caught in that same early glow. It’s a reaffirmation for me of life’s possibilities.
The memory sets off a train of thought – memories of other early mornings, in other places, other times, perhaps even another me:…………..early mornings in cities, like York, ambling along the riverbank, bacon roll in hand, as the locals scurry or ride over the bridges on their way to work, or driving past the race course, where the brume still hugs the grass; an early winter morning in its namesake, New York, the icy air making me catch my breath as I step onto the street, so it tumbles back into that freezing air like steam, dodging into Macy’s for coffee and a bagel to fuel by body against the cold.
I think of early mornings in London: pressed up against strangers, sweaty on the Tube, even in winter, emerging into the chill and the traffic chaos, we spill out of the stations like roaches out of an opened manhole. Especially I remember the early morning to watch the London Marathon; awed by the elite runners; and even more by those with disabilities, as they career through the damp streets in those vehicles looking so fragile yet being so strong; cheering on my son who dances his last few yards for joy .
I remember early mornings in Provence: a dim memory of a campsite in Port Grimaud, learning to ride a bike and childishly delighting in taking it every morning to collect fresh baguettes; later, Nice – in winter, chèvre with sweet honey on chunks of bread and hot chocolate in a corner café with steamed-up windows, or in summer wandering the market and choosing fruit for breakfast. Grasse – walking up to the bakery for fresh, buttery croissants, which spoiled me for croissants anywhere else in the world thereafter.
I take myself back to the utter peace of an English Lakeland early spring morning, magical mists rising, slowly revealing that beauty hiding underneath.
I remember early mornings in Rome, which on every visit seems to be bathed in a golden light, despite the hoards of tourists now, people-watching in pavement cafés, sipping cappuccino and envying the elegance of the local women: or in Paris – defying the drizzle to see sights I’ve only ever seen in movies; Scottish early mornings, sitting in damp grass waiting for a pheasant to rise, or tramping iconic heather, purple upon purple, searching for elusive grouse; bright mornings cruising Florida’s Overseas Highway across the Keys, impossibly turquoise waters, warm air, a sensation crossed between driving and flying and sailing; standing on a sandy shore in the Outer Banks gazing across an ocean from the other side, drinking in the peace.
My addiction to early mornings is not even diminished as, soaked to the skin, under threatening Welsh skies, I see off my son and the dozens of other runners for the Snowdonia Marathon…….you can see them snaking around the hillside if you squint.
For me it’s early mornings; for you it might be sunsets or airports or a full dinner plate, a sip of wine or a hint of a familiar tune but whatever our trigger is, how lucky we are to have these wonderful travel memories, to be able to transport ourselves to places around the world at the pushing of a particular button in our heads. For now – another photo from the other morning. How lucky am I to be here right now?