August 26, 2018
Now, the heady smell of sweet ferns and damp earth...
Now, the dense humid air thinning slightly; filled with the flitting of dragonflies and the thrumming of hummingbirds and the sweet, industrious labor of honey bees...
New England in the final weeks of summer.
I never expected to be here now, on a casual afternoon walk in the woods with my sister, who is chatting about work as though it's a regular day like any other.
I never expected to be here now, unable to hear what she is saying over the secret, wild pounding of my heart.
Now, entering the pine-needle-carpeted grove by the river.
Now, turning to watch her face register the surprise.
Now, seeing her boyfriend John in a blue collared shirt, leaning his back against the soaring hemlock tree that witnessed so much of our childhood.
Now, watching the two of them lock eyes, surroundings forgotten, as though in a trance; the slow taking of steps to cross the cathedral-like space.
I never expected to be here now, melting back into the trees to give them privacy, turning once to glimpse him going down on one knee.
Now, the sole witness to this historic moment, wiping tears from my cheeks on the walk back to the house, where our parents are waiting with champagne on ice.
Now, placing my hand on the small of my grandmother's back, leading her around in a square-dancing circle inside the glowing barn that my father built from scratch.
Now, just before the air gets crisp and the first leaves turn; just before Time shakes awake, and announces its continued passage.
Now, reflecting on the expensive and impractical choice I made months ago to disrupt my cycling trip and fly thousands of miles to make room for the things that would lead me here...
It occurs to me that we never really know, in advance, how important it will end up being, that we made the unlikely choice that we did.
The choices we will look back on years from now, saying:
"Imagine if I hadn't done it?"
Like Steve Jobs and his calligraphy class; the value of our unconventional choices only ever becomes clear with hindsight.
And often it's these choices -- the ones that at first appear to defy practicality, logic, or momentum -- that lead to the best experiences, the best stories, and the best lives.
As summer turns to fall, and we start to turn our attention toward what's next...
Where can you indulge an impulse that feels important... even if you can't yet say why?
.... Perhaps in anticipation of a possible future, in which there is a more seasoned you looking back, saying: "Just imagine... if I hadn't done it?"
PS. This story uses all five of my "5 Rules for Compelling Personal Stories" in action. You can get a free copy (and immediately boost your storytelling charisma) by subscribing.