I spent my last full day in the UK, appropriately, hiking the Seven Sisters trail from Seaford to Eastborne. It was quite a risk. I had run out of cellular data on my phone, and my flight had been the next day back in London Heathrow. But, this had been a trail that I had missed out on previously. This was a trail that I wanted to see. Even Caeser saw it on his attempted conquest of England. I was determined to see the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters before I leave the UK, and I was willing to take a series of reasonable risks in order to do so. And, here I am, writing my thoughts after the hike viewing the sunset from Eastborne.
It was an overcast day. The temperature was warm. There was a cool breeze. Then it turned sunny. I hate the sun.
In terms of ideal hiking weather, this is as ideal as it gets. My train to Seaford had been quite confusing. My ticket had indicated a transfer at Lewes. This, I had expected. But, midway through my ride, it was announced that my train would be split into two. Luckily, I realized in time and picked the correct half of the train that would lead to my destination. If I were to have been two carts down from the cart I had occupied, then I would have gone onto another train to a destination that would have certaintly have made me lost. And, who knows if I could make my flight back to Philadelphia the next day. Such is the determinant.
To say that my walk was leisurely would be a lie. I took a couple of water breaks, of course, but my breaks never exceeded a minute. Throughout the entire hike, I kept on checking my location on Google Maps. I did not keep track of my pace, but it constantly felt as if I was behind schedule. Especially before what I considered to be the halfway point, I kept on feeling as if I wouldn’t make it by 8 PM, so I did not take any significant breaks from the the moment I had started. Sometimes, I would stop to admire the view, only to realize that I do not have enough time to admire the view and continue marching.
I thought about a few things as I walked.
Sometimes, I would smell the sea breeze and be reminded of crying. There are so many instances of me crying while growing up, and I remember the smell very distinctly. Because I have no cried since, I only can rely on my memory, but there is no way I can mistaken the salty taste in my mouth that swells through my throat and into my nose. Perhaps the ocean is just a giant tear. There is plenty of sadness in the world that would allow someone to shed as massive of a tear as the ocean. Perhaps it is divine in this rite. I have always sought justification to view the ocean as a divine entity; perhaps this is it.
The ocean was blue. It was a shade of turquoise. There was a minute where I could see the flora underneath the ocean about a hundred feet away. There is something about cliffs and oceans that magnitizes me. They are both products of nature. But, there is also a force that i have been attracted to since I was a child. It is just a cliff, and it is just an ocean. But, to me, it is so much more than that. It is possibility, particularly, the possibility of dying. I could fall off a cliff just as easily as I could drown in the ocean. And, especially being in the presence of both, I frequently fantasized about dying.
The birds would also chirp from above. I was not wearing sunglasses, and the sky would be too bright for me to look up. I would hear de-localized chrips echoing from the sky. It is the beautiful sounds of birds wanting to have sex. Or socialize. Do birds even socialize? To me, it is just a series of sounds to which I have assigned a label of beauty. A couple of miles later, I saw cows in a field. The cows were at least a half a mile away, but, for some reason, I could hear their moos all the way from the trail. I have been quite used to noise pollution all of my life, so I found it quite jarring when I could hearing such noises from so far away.
Sometimes, I would look into the horizon between the sea and the sky. Since this is the UK, the sky was cloudy, as usual. It was also foggy. But, the sky today had a blueish tinge to it. When I would look at the horizon, sometimes I would be unable to realize where the sea turned into the sky. With the gradient offered by the fog, it seemed that the two were one and the same. I found the moment to be beautiful. Here I am, standing on patch of green, while the rest of the world is a shade of blue. In terms of capturing the feeling of alienation from the world, I thought the contrast was riveting.
At one point, I was near tears. I say near because I am pretty convinced at this point that I no longer have the capabilities to cry. It was the moment that I came to realize that objective beauty did exist. I had been hiking for a little bit, and I turned back to look at the town of Seaford from on top of the cliff. While I have attempted to explain my feelings for my entire life, it was a moment that I could not fathom. At least, right now. I might be able to explain it later. I was so detached. So isolated. For a moment, it seemed that I truly had a purpose to live other than instinct. It was a feeling. I have forgotten that feeling.
I saw a couple of houses throughout the hike. They were houses next to the ocean, but, to me, they also represented an image of the possibilities of my life. There is the life that is planned for me, and then there is the life that I idealize. I think, realistically, I am not going to have an ocean view for some time. I will, realistically, end up in New York working for a company whose goals vaguely align with mine and live in Brooklyn. There is the life that I envision for myself, and then there is the life that I see for myself. I realized that this is what Sasha Sloan had been singing about in “This Town”:
I want an ocean view, somewhere
As long as I’m next to you, I don’t care
I also want an ocean view. I want to live next to the ocean with someone I love. I want the permanence of sharing experience, ideally next to an ocean. When I see these houses, I forget about my professional and personal ambitions. I no longer want to succeed in whatever field I choose or make a the largest positive contribution to the world that I can. It’s not important to me anymore. There is the world that I want to create, but then there is also my world that I want to create. I realize what I truly value in life. I want to love. I want an ocean view. I want to grow old with someone I love in a house with an ocean view.
There weren’t any bathrooms throughout the trail, not surprisingly. I had just finished the Game of Thrones series finale, and I have always wanted to taste what Tyrion meant by pissing off the end of the world. Although it was a nice day, there were very few people around, especially in the mid-region between Seaford and Eastborne. It seemed as if people would just turn around right before they reach the midway point of the Seven Sisters. Especially because I had been staying hydrated, I really needed to pee around the around the Beachy Head. So, I stood on the edge of the cliff and peed into the ocean.
I don’t think the ocean minded. It was already greenish-blue.
There was one point when I walked on a rocks next to the beach. I noticed that the larger the rock, the higher the frequency my step produced. For some reason, I found my realization to be intently curious. I stepped on stones throughout the beach in an attempt to pinpoint an optimal stepping pattern to create a sound that is acoustically pleasing, if, of course, aesthetics could also be transformed into acoustics with the same theories surrounding them. I did not want stop stepping on stones or throwing stones at other stones, but the optimal pace had already confined me to walk at a certain rate.
I also came a realization that I had no idea which way the wind was blowing. Despite turning my hands in multiple directions, I had almost no idea. It just seemed so arbitrary. The wind did not care which direction I had turned my hand. It has no incentives to reveal its true direction to me. Although I can attempt to sift through the evidence, in the end, it seems almost futile because the wind can change direction as it wills, and I am helpless but to accept the direction that the wind has presented to me in its windy temperament. I would tell the wind to piss off, but the wind is still there all the same.
My day ended with me sitting at the Belgian Cafe. I was craving fish and chips, and I had originally planned to go to a fish and chips take out place that got 4.5 stars on Google Maps, but I saw a deal right outside this store, and I couldn’t resist. This is what capitalism does to me. But, I suppose I can’t really complain. I did not want to walk anymore. I had spent the entire day walking, and it seems that this last mile to a Tesco and then to a take-out place had been too much for me. The meal at the Belgian cafe, nevertheless, was satisfying. But, as for meals after a six-hour hike goes, I think there is very little that would disappoint me.
After the half pint that came with the fish and chips, I ordered a pale ale to accompany me as I watch the shade creeping into the air. Throughout most of the day, I had taken my waterproof jacket off because it had been too hot. But, now I have the jacket back on, and it is still very cold. My fingers, in particular, were very cold. I drinking a pint of pale ale to be the last drink that I have in the UK to be quite poetic. Merely a couple of months ago, the very first drink someone had bought for me in a pub had been a pale ale. Now, it is my pale ale that finishes this semester.
Fish and chips are really starting to grow on me. It is too bad that I am leaving tomorrow with no possibility of getting fish and chips again for the near future. It seems that the moment I enjoy something is the moment it taken away from me. What an apt description of life.