The Age of Exploration

I slowed and squinted in search of the trail head. Reticent to invite the wrath of the snowbirds on account of an accidental trespass, I nearly missed the weathered blue paint pointing to the Cliff Walk.

My plan was just a quick run out and back.

But this was no running trail. Even if my ankles could have handled the jagged terrain, my eyes would never have allowed it. I gawked seaward, looking down only when the ground couldn't be trusted. The low tide tattled on an abandoned lobster trap wedged cliff side in mid-topple. And zealous waves took it upon themselves to punish the rusty cage for its tampering presence.

I curved round a dozen bends of flowering shrubs and happened upon a stony beach where sand hid beneath pebbles, and sofa-sized rocks offered a perch for a different realm of rest.

And I found myself in a place I hadn't been in many, many years--caught up in wonder.

What would appear beyond the next wall of rocks? Would the trail go on beyond this bend, and where was the street from here? And who lived in those grand houses off in the distance? And how far into the sea could I stretch, if I tackled those boulders in low tide?

As a child, I spent countless days exploring the creek bordering my backyard. I followed every trail and charted every crossing, wondering where each turn might lead. (It took years before I realized I'd spent the bulk of my wide-eyed childhood under the spell of a tree-lined drainage easement. But one person's drainage easement is another's Terabithia, right?)

Before long, I grew out of my muddy creek shoes. I stopped wondering and started worrying about keeping life clean and familiar.

I traded exploration for routine, spontaneity for structure. I shied a hundred steps away from unbeaten paths. I treasured safety above discovery.

This predictable, protected plodding is arguably a respectable pace for a parent. But I have embraced it too exclusively, leaving little room for an adventurous race or an exploratory detour.

I have today--this day--only once, and the next is not promised. So be it a muddy creek trail or a pebbled path by the sea, I owe it to myself and to my children to explore.
To step out of the ordinary.
To forsake the familiar.
To wonder what might be beyond the bend, and to uncover the answer.

To return again and again to the age of exploration.

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Even though I'm linking to Jo Lynne's What I Learned This Week series, I can't lay claim to have truly learned to "sail away from the safe harbor" and approach life with a sense of adventure and exploration. I've got the concept top of mind though, so hopefully that counts for something!

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