With January’s cold days at an end and thoughts of spring break and beaches in my head, I chose an image for my digital art display of a river flowing into the ocean. Waves swirled around stark rock formations and over golden sands.

Photo of a river meeting the ocean.

The picture wasn’t animated, but as I looked at it, I could easily imagine the ocean shaping the sand into different patterns around the rocks. Each wave traced tiny rivulets along the beach, always changing, impossible to hold constant. Then I began to feel that my future was like the sands of that beach, rearranging itself from one breath to the next.

“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

In an imaginary corner of the picture, my future self Kass was sitting comfortably on a rock, with a folded beach towel for a cushion. She wore pink denim shorts and a tropical-print blouse, and she had taken off her flip-flops to let the waves splash over her feet.

“Just think about how easy that makes changing the future,” Kass elaborated. “And not only the future—with every breath we take, the present moment changes, and even the past looks different. Time’s patterns are always getting rearranged.”

She pressed her feet deeper into the sand, letting it cover much of the rose-gold polish on her toenails. Another wave came, splashing over her feet and carrying the sand off.

“Let’s look at it this way: What are you doing right now?”

“In real life I’m indoors because it is still winter,” I said, which was the first thing that came to mind, “and the dry air has been irritating my sinuses.”

“Okay.” Kass drew spirals in the sand with her toes, and the next wave washed them away. “And what are you doing now?”

I took a deep breath of the imaginary ocean air and tried again. “Just now, I was putting together my grocery list and thinking about what snacks to buy for the Superbowl party.”

Kass lifted her feet to let the next wave flow gently underneath them. For the third time, she asked, “What are you doing right now?”

The wave crested and then slowly receded, leaving the rock unchanged.

“I am feeling glad because, right now, I’m in a warm, safe home and have a loving family.”

With a smile, Kass put her flip-flops down on the sand, slipped her feet into them, and stood up. “There, you see how easy that was? You just changed your life in the present by refocusing your thoughts. My past also changed because you’re a past version of me, and, of course, that also means your future is now on a different path.”

Kass faded out of the picture, leaving the next wave to carry away her footprints.

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