path finder: journeys & discoveries

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I've been working on a project related to capturing various forms of light, so this weekend I decided that it was necessary to shoot the light off of the ocean in Galveston.  I asked Marcus and Alex to come with me, so we could make a  family road trip of it.

I often forget that living here in Houston we're so close to the beach, because really, it's not much of a beach.  I mean, I readily admit that since I'm from the Caribbean, I'm something of a beach snob.  Also, the town of Galveston is really special:  in addition to the quirky stores and boutiques along the Strand, the neighbourhoods in and around the town are made of up really charming Victorian cottages and buildings.  There are really great places to get amazing seafood in Galveston, and since Hurricane Ike came through in 2008, the rebuilding of the community has been pretty impressive (including the opening of an entertainment pier that looks like it could be a great time.)

But the beach?  Yeah.  It's not one to write home about.

For one thing, it's silty.  The Mississippi River empties to the east of us off of Louisiana, and its silt travels along the US coastline west to Galveston.  As a result, Galveston's sands are not white and powdery, but instead, rather dark and sort of clay-like.  The ocean gets really cloudy near the coast as well, so you have to go offshore a bit before you get to the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  But the worst part, I think, is the fact that cars are permitted to drive on the beach -- this, combined with occasional litter, completely ruin the beach experience for me.  It is possible, I suspect, that Galveston was once a glorious beach, but if so, it certainly isn't anymore.

So while Marcus and Alex put on their swimsuits and packed their surfboards before we left the house, I didn't bring so much as a flip-flop.  Once we got down to Galveston and parked the car (in a parking lot, NOT on the sand), Alex immediately ran down to the beach.  It was still pretty early morning, and not warm enough to swim, so I dashed her hopes and told her that she couldn't get in the water.  She was disappointed, but quickly got over it,  combing the sand looking for shells.  Marcus started wading in the water (as an Englishman who grew up on the ocean, there could've been blocks of ice floating in the waves, and he still would've gotten in), but was disappointed that there wasn't really much surf for him to enjoy with his board.

As for me, I did what I always do:  shot a few pictures, and then waited (not so) patiently for Alex and Marcus to finish having their fun, so we could leave and find a good breakfast somewhere in town.

As I was taking my shots (and between making faces at Marcus in my usual nonverbal-but-certainly-expressive commentary about Galveston beaches), I watched Alex: she was having a whale of a time.  She was running from one clump of seaweed to another, occasionally picking something up and discarding it, splashing in the ripples of the water.  There's something about kids and the beach, isn't there?  Just give a child some salt, sand and sea and she's thrilled for hours, it doesn't matter what the beach looks like.  There I was, standing on the beach unable to get over how flawed it was, and she didn't even notice or care.

Suddenly she ran up to me.

"Mom, look!  I found a lightning whelk!"

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She was holding up a tiny, spiraled shell -- completely unblemished, perfect in every way.  I was actually a bit shocked:  there were very few shells on the beach that day, and most of them were broken, or caked in debris.  But this one was perfect.

She tucked it in her pocket.  "I'm going to look for more," she called over her shoulder, as she skipped back down the beach.

I've not been able to stop thinking about this since we got back.  Weirdly, it reminds me of how I felt when I first stopped practicing law:  at the time I was feeling incredibly exhausted, and was pretty down on myself.  When I was practicing, I had so fully self-identified as a lawyer,  I didn't know if I had any other, different skills to put to use to make a living, let alone live a fulfilled life.  I felt sort of like that run-down beach -- maybe at one time I felt like I had a lot to offer, but not then.  I was tired.

Because I wasn't leaving to take another position at another company, I had a lot of time to do a lot of introspection:  I had just begun journaling in earnest, so I gave myself a ton of exercises and journaling prompts to help identify what I was passionate about, what lit me up.  And though at the time I was simply experimenting with ideas, each time I stumbled upon some little insight, it was like finding that tiny, perfect little lightning whelk -- shocking, but ultimately thrilling, making me want to find more.

I think this is how it can be for a lot of us -- we get so used to seeing our lives a certain way, that it's hard to see ourselves as anything more than mundane, or everyday.  But often, if we simply take the chance to approach ourselves differently -- like looking at an old, tired beach through a child's eyes -- it can be amazing what we learn about ourselves, you know?

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And so, with this in mind, I'm thrilled to announce registration for the Chookooloonks Path Finder is now open.  This course is primarily based on the journaling exercises I gave myself back when I quit law (and ones I continue to give myself now) to find out what lights me up, and determine how I can inject shots of good into my life as frequently as possible.  I've been offering this course for a couple of years now, and I've received tons of emails from folks telling me about the happy discoveries they've made about themselves as they worked through the exercises.  I love that these exercises that were so personal for me work for so many others as well.

I'm not entirely sure when I'll be offering Path Finder again, so this time, I'm leaving registration open for 6 weeks (as opposed to my usual 2), until May 29th, or until the class fills up, whichever is earlier.  I want to make sure that whoever is interested in being a part of the course has an opportunity to do it.

We do have a wonderful time in this course (as evidenced by the testimonials on the course description), so if you're thinking about signing up, I hope you take the plunge and join me. Because sometimes even the tiniest discoveries that come out of these exercises can be the most exhilarating.

The course begins Monday, June 3, 2013.

Click here to register for Path Finder.