One such experience was on a college visit to a high school in East St. Louis, Illinois. It registered as unusual to drive into a school parking lot that was surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire at the top. When I arrived at the front door of the school, a sign instructed me to ring a bell which was answered by an armed guard who escorted me to the guidance counselors’ office. When I left the school, I stood on the steps and looked across the parking lot – as far as I could see, there were cars, concrete, and the fence with barbed wire. There was not a tree, a flower, or a blade of grass in sight. Although I didn’t know enough to be afraid, I wondered what it was like to attend school in what seemed like a prison or to be outside in a completely concrete environment.
Another experience happened in Louisiana. My admissions counseling job included home visits where I would meet with students and parents and discuss admission requirements as well as financial aid options. I drove quite a distance out of town into the Louisiana bayou to visit a young man, hoping I wouldn’t get lost because the student’s family did not have a telephone at home. I arrived at the address, climbed the rickety wooden steps onto the porch of what looked like a wooden shack, knocked on the door, and promptly fell through porch to the ground. The family pulled me up, and our visit took place – even though I was in shock, partly from falling and because I could not believe that I was talking with this family about college. How could they possibly afford to send their son to college? I wondered how people living in such poverty could change their lives.
After two years in Arkansas I moved to San Diego to work in admissions for a prestigious private college. The students and the families I visited were different from those in the inner city or the rural South. But I was different, too. I was becoming more reflective and introspective, although I probably didn’t know or understand those concepts at the time.
One day, walking alone on South Mission Beach, I met a man and we started talking. He was different from others I had met. Now I would describe him as a kindred spirit; at the time, I thought he was “deep.” After a while, he invited me to his apartment for lunch, and I accepted. It wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds – his apartment was a studio located right on the beachfront with a wall of windows overlooking the boardwalk. Hundreds of tourists passing by could see us. As he was making lunch, I began reading a book that was on his coffee table. I don’t remember the title or the author; but on the first page was a description of “seekers.” Although it was 40 years ago, it remains one of the most important days of my life. It was the day I first recognized myself. I am a seeker!
I was so moved by the words, I asked for paper and a pen, and copied the description of the seeker from the book. I have saved and cherished it for over 4 decades. (This handwritten copy is at the top of the Seeker web page.) I never saw the man again.
Then, now, and forever, the ocean is home to me. For a large part of my adult life, I had the great honor of living near the ocean, first in San Diego, then Boston and Maine. Its predictability and unpredictability – happening at the same time – brings me comfort and instills wonder. I began to think of the ocean as “Mother Sea” – always there, always dependable (consider the ability to predict the tide schedule). And yet, there was another component of reality to consider. Each day, each hour, the personality of the ocean is a surprise. Very much like life!