I was at Moody Gardens with my daughter’s school the other day and I walked through the rain forest pyramid. There is a quote I’ve always loved hanging above entrance by Loren Eiseley -anthropologist and author of The Immense Journey, that read, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
My Mom used to always buy our whole family a season pass to Moody Gardens, a tradition we continue. At first, I used to think she did it because she was friends with both Ann and Bobby Moody. She would do stuff like that a lot. But I realized later that she did it because it was a great place for our family to gather when they’d come home from all the different places they lived. Galveston is lucky to have so many places like that. My daughter and I used to go to the aquarium all the time when she was little and my wife took her to Palm Beach almost every day for several summers in a row.
Like many people here on the island I’ve always felt a close connection to water and to the sea. Years ago, while my family went through some terrible things, I’d lose/find myself for hours and hours surfing or sailing. I didn’t really fix anything, but it gave me a place where our problems seemed more in perspective and offered a connection to something much bigger than our transient existence. As Isak Dinesen says, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed that people with a connection to water found connections with each other as well. There are many famous Texas watermen that demonstrate this. Galveston lifeguard legend Leroy Columbo touched many lives. One of these was Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz who as a child rented surf mats from Columbo. Former lifeguard Babe Schwartz, who needs no introduction, was a huge part in founding the modern Beach Patrol in Galveston. Doc Paskowitz once met Jim Dobbins (one of the first trainers of the Beach Patrol) surfing in California. Doc told Jim that Babe Schwartz once saved his wife’s life.
Doc Paskowitz, a Galveston native, has many famous quotes that are repeated all over the world by surfers and lifeguards. One that fits is, “There is a wisdom in the wave” to which he added, “While just a child, the warm waters of the Gulf Coast of Texas gave me my first chance at that wisdom.”
I’m not sure where in the mix of water and people you find the magic, but in a world where we’re trained to accumulate things and hold on to everything tightly, it’s a place that forces you to let go.
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do, you will sink and drown. Instead you relax and float.” -Alan Watts