I ask for the daily special, written in florescent pink paint of the mirror behind the bar and think about how maybe it was a good thing that I didn't get the chance to see the ocean in Texas. Sometimes what I imagine is more beautiful than reality. Reality is always tarnished by what is.
I browse my phone and see photographs of waves crashing into a rocky shoreline, under gray skies. I feel the longing for that place for a moment. I imagine myself there.
Looking at a photograph, you may feel like you know a place, but you don't. The place in your head isn't even real. The photograph you're looking at is a still shot taken from a moment of time that's passed already. It shows one one-billionth of the essence of a place.
You can get closer to knowing a place by visiting it. You can feel the sun and the salty ocean breeze, and see the birds circling above you. You can hike there and spend a week there. But you still won't know it all the other days of the year.
You could get closer still if you lived there, if you saw the place change through the seasons and watched the tide change. Maybe you'd see the landscape change a fraction of what it will. Maybe you'd see some of the rocks fall into the sea. You could see it in the height of bug season when the tourists leave; see the things no one comes there to see.
But you'll still never truly know that place. There are billions of years that came before you and there'll be billions after you. Even if you could stick there throughout time, and see the landscape glide together to create those huge rock formations and see the ocean carve away the shoreline, you are stuck inside your frontal lobe. You are still seeing things through the lens of 'human,' through eyes that send signals to your brain, which is colored by your emotions, your body's signals calling attention to your aching feet and sunburnt skin, and foggy thinking from too little sleep.
You can know a place, but you'll never really know it. Your knowledge is not objective. It could never be.
It is the same with people. Like the wilderness, you can never truly know them. Even people you've dated for ten years. Even people you've married. Even your children, your mother, your twin sister. You can experience them, in little jolts, in periods of time that define them to you. You can love them; you can elect to spend every waking moment of every day trying to understand them. But you'll never truly know them. Like waves crashing against a rocky shoreline, you'll never truly understand them. People are far too big, with far too many complex little crevices where they hide away parts of themselves; parts even they don't understand.
That knowledge can make one sad. We try so hard to control our environments, and people and ourselves and landscapes, and we forget that everything is unknown and big, beyond anything imaginable. Driving around in your little car around town with your day ahead of you, browsing tumblr and imagining places in photographs, it's easy to forget.