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  • I’d told him about the island before.
    I’d told him how – for me – horizons were supposed to blend with the sky, because the wind and rain out to sea sometimes made it hard to tell where one ended and the other began. I’d told him how strange I thought it was that you can’t hear your surroundings inland, like you can on the island. You can’t hear the earth, but the sea is always there. I’d told him of summer sea storms, when the ocean air is so alive with electricity it is warm between the rain, and how the ocean is at its warmest for swimming in thunder and lightning. I told him how you can see the bay start to turn violet as the day dies and the storm in born.
    For me, those were all things I thought kids grew up knowing. For him, he still had to learn. He had to discover it.
    He’d heard it, but he couldn’t understand.
    He’d told me many times before how he hated the sea, and I couldn’t believe him. He didn’t even like going in the water. To him, the sea and the beach and everything that came with them meant family holidays, fighting with his little sister, crowded beaches, sunburn and sandy clothes. It was all he had ever known of the sea, and for that, I was sorry. But I knew what he needed. He needed to give the sea time. Every island kid knows that if you stay in for long enough, the ocean will warm up for you.
    On the first day I took him to the jetty. The history of her was etched into her planks and rusted into her ladders. Pylons were broken and swaying in the water, and every time a wave rolled through we could feel it and hear the creaking. She smelt of salt and years, but still, the decades-old peeling paint was whiter than the feathers of the gulls that were sitting on the rails, and the wood had been worn smooth by the storms over the years. She was strong and she was beautiful, stretching forever north in the afternoon light, but she was old. The strength of all those men and their effort and designs and months of construction, and she was still no match for the ocean. In the bolts and the ladder, the steel had slowly been turned to rusting red flakes, something that would crumble in a hand. The wood was greying and splintered easily; some planks wobbled, some were completely gone. The jetty was a reminder for him of how powerless we are against our landscapes, and that the best we can do is try to keep up with whatever our environment tests us with.
    Beneath the jetty we climbed over rocks and I showed him the weird swollen creatures that stuck to the rocks in the shallows. He watched as their red fronds swayed with each gentle wave. I showed him how – if you wave your hand by them – the fronds disappear into the anenome’s body. His eyes widened at the strangeness of it, and he played like a child for an hour. He learnt how to discover again – find things – and he found his wonder.
    When I took him to the cliffs, we walked along the edge until we found a place to climb down. As we got closer to the bottom we felt the spray of the sea as it beat itself against the base of the cliffs and spilled into a rock pool that slept in the sun just above the tide mark. The pool was deep – at least three times his height, as was the rock we jumped from. We stood on the edge and looked down at the pool beneath us. Not many locals even know about it and it was almost entirely untouched. He told me he’d never seen any place like it.
    “The natural beauty,” he had said.
    He flung his body though the air – smiled the whole way down – and when he met the air again he was ecstatic. He told me he never does things like this.
    He’d fallen for the sea; her moods, her beauty, her strength. It had changed him and he saw a part of the world differently from then on. I guess we make our own worlds new again. For him, it was that summer on the island when he was seventeen that redefined his relationship with an entire landscape, even though there had always been beaches and sea before. It made him realise that everything he thought he had known, he hadn’t. Instead, he left the island with memories of laughter, discovery, wonder and awe, and a unique experience and understanding of something he once could not comprehend. He told me that the island had been so different to what he’d ever seen before, and I think it was the landscape that gave him the new eyes to see it. All he needed was the journey that let him allow himself to see it differently.
    Like every island kid knows; the ocean will warm up for you if you give it the chance.

    The voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes

    - Marcel Proust
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