I recently visited a golf course I had not been to since the days immediately following September 11, 2001. It was in Biarritz, France and it was upon visiting, under much different circumstance and many years later, that I realized just how much playing any golf course is like a retrospective of Claude Monet's art.
Impressionism was based on the philosophy of understanding and then expressing our changing perceptions of nature. Monet was best known for painting the exact same scene over and over in order to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Some of the best known examples are his paintings of the same haystacks at different times of day and seasons. The haystacks are the same just the time of day, passing of time and seasons change thus changing our perspective.
On September 11, 2001, I was in Saint Emillion, France with a girlfriend having lunch, laughing, enjoying summer in Europe, and visiting wineries. We stopped in a shop to buy wine and two young guys that worked in the store told us that planes were crashing into buildings and office towers were falling in New York City. We did not understand nor fully believe what they were saying. We went back to our house that was being shared with ten people from different parts of the world. A few were from New York and we all scrambled around the television trying to understand what was happening. None of us were proficient in French so we were desperate to find news.
In the days following, each of us tried to make sense of what was happening while trying to find ways to get home given the challenging travel circumstances. Despite our distance from New York we were aware of the immense hurt and suffering many families were experiencing around this unconceivable event. What I noticed during this time was how each person in our group dealt with the information in their own way. Loved ones, jobs, friends were all affected to varying degrees. Some people in our house went for a run or bike ride, others looked to find information from phone calls, papers or the television. I remember taking a taxi to the Golf d'Ilbarritz golf course, renting some clubs and just hitting balls off the driving range. I wanted to clear my head and try to make sense of what was happening. The elevated tee boxes overlooking the sea made if feel like the ball was going miles. I remember thinking how incredibly far away I felt and trying to make sense of how something so horrible could be happening in the United States. There was a heaviness and sadness in my heart and I will never forget that time and place and most importantly the innocent people affected that day.
A month ago I revisited the same golf course under very different circumstances. I met a dear friend, Roland, a journalist and golf enthusiast, from a neighboring town, Saint Jean de Luz, at the Golf d'Ilbarritz driving range. He reminded me how golf has been an excellent way for him to meditate, reflect and a wonderful way for him to take some time and work through life's issues at many different times throughout his life.
I rented clubs again and began to hit balls just as I had done 13 years earlier and realized like a Monet painting of haystacks it was not the golf course that changed but rather that life had moved on, seasons had changed, the light was different. Our relationship with the golf course is one that is constantly different, each time we visit we are in a different time, different season and perhaps the light inside of us is different. Golf is a beautiful slice of nature where we can reflect, rejoice and connect with natural surroundings, friends and family. We never want to forget but we realize time moves and so must we to find a path to our happiness.