What If?

Do you ever find yourself entertaining the idea of “what if?”

Do you wonder what life might have been like if you’d taken one fork in the road instead of the other one?

Do you let it sit there in your mind and take root?

If you do a seed is planted and eventually it germinates and shows you another direction your life might have gone.

Sometimes I think: What if I’d become a nature photographer? Lived out in the countryside in a little cabin with dogs and cats and chickens. Maybe a goat or two.

I’d get up early and head into the hills with my camera, tracking rabbits and foxes and deer. I’d position myself against big rocks that held the warmth of the sun and wait until the silence beckoned them to come out into the open.

I’d take dozens and dozens of photos of them roaming the land, feeding their young, hiding from predators. Then I’d take it back to my little cabin and see it all come to life on my computer.

It sounds enchanting to me. To not have a neighbor for at least a mile. To have silence be my steady companion.

I’d sell my photos to magazines and other publications and that would bring in enough to keep me going. Maybe I’d put together a coffee table book of animals I photographed.

I’d have a nice sized garden. Veggies and fruit would be plentiful. I’d forego meat. I never really liked the texture of it anyway. I’d cook up big portions and freeze some of it for winter.

There would be no sounds of ambulances or fire trucks racing down the street nearby. Or helicopters rat-a-tat-tatting their way to local hospitals with patients needing immediate and specialized care.

No cacophony of traffic or bleating horns. No neighbors playing loud music.

Just me and my animals. Living a simple life with my camera as my constant companion.

What if I’d taken that road? Gone a different direction?

I don’t know, can’t know, if my life would have been better. But it would have been different.

The words “what if” are very powerful words. They hold promise and mystery and a little bit of fear.

None of us know where we’d be right now if we’d taken a different road. We wouldn’t have missed the life we have now because we’d never have known it.

When I was a child I would lie in bed in the summertime with the window open hoping for a tepid breeze. And listen to the night sounds.

I would hear trains in the distance rolling down the tracks, the lonely night sounds a dispirited melody. I would wonder where it came from and where it was going.

I guess that was the impetus of my “what if” thinking.

I’d imagine myself sitting on that train. The windows would barely reflect my image in the dark, and I’d see myself looking out to vistas I could only imagine.

Riding that train through town after town and state after state until I reached a destination I’m not even privy to. Because it’s part of “what if” and no one knows where “what if” ends.

“The restlessness and the longing, like the longing that is in the whistle of a faraway train. Except that the longing isn’t really in the whistle—it is in you.”

― Meindert DeJong

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  1. For those of us with trauma in our lives…I mean more than the usual amount, the “what ifs” surely are part of that. But likely in most things, we made basically the only choice we had…it can be an illusion that one has many choices. One thing that preserved my sanity during some really difficult days was the “what if” I had married my first beau. His family was superb and treated me as one of them, clear back at age 14!! I was never really accepted, and in ways, neither were OUR children (after all, I did not get pregnant from anyone but their son…my kids ALL have certain physical characteristics that show HIM and THEM all to pieces!!) But one does wonder how life might have gone with an extended family that was loving and accepting. But it was enough…I could go imagine life when real life was just so nasty and hard…and think of what MIGHT HAVE BEEN!! And remember that some fine people DID LOVE ME!! And would have so loved my children too!! But apparently what happened, as to the one I married, was meant to be. It happened. And sometimes it is easier to think you really did not have a choice…even if that is not totally the case.
    I am also a country girl at heart (only my 1st 3 years and 13 other years here and there, were country)…and all the rest of my 67 years I have longed for the rest of those years to live in the country. Now it is too late…we are too old and infirm. But another life awaits…we both spend some time dreaming of where we might live in THAT LAND!!

  2. I sometimes think of the what ifs…and there’s several of them!…but I try not to dwell on them and just appreciate the life I have. I liked your particular what if because I can relate to the part about living in a little cottage with some outdoor animals and a big garden and no neighbors around. I actually daydream about that quite a bit! So not really a what if for me, but more of a dream.

  3. I read that you need to take the “what ifs” back to no more “what ifs”. It is an interesting concept to google.

    1. Such interesting thoughts. I do play the What If game probably more than I should since it takes me out of the present. By the way, I have lived in the country two different times, and would like to do so again. There are positives and negatives to rural life, just like life anywhere else. The first time, I lived on a lovely farm in a setting much like you described. Our neighbors really were a mile away. My ex-husband still lives on that farm. There’s a clue there as to why I no longer live there — ex-husband! It was his farm, and it ends up he just really wasn’t so keen about sharing it with anyone. He’s had a second wife come and go as well! The second time in the country was with my second, and current, husband. So the companionship was much better, but when his job contract ended and he found another job, the commute was much too far for him to drive each day. We ended up moving back into a town. The funny thing was, our soil at the new location in town was better for gardening than the clay soil of that second home in the country. We occasionally go check out places for sale in the country and one of these days maybe we will find a spot, but it probably won’t be until my husband retires. Long commutes into jobs is one of the worst parts about country living. Even if you work at home in the country, you still have to make trips into town for supplies, doctor and vet appointments and so on. But, if you find a spot you can afford and your living companions are pleasant, it can be a positive experience!

  4. This lockdown stuff has had me finding out a lot about myself. I enjoyed the quiet when no one was outside. No sirens, no crime, no noise. I would go to the park and watch the ducks and geese wander around. I still do because it is the only place to sit and eat right now. I want to move to a smaller community, where there are places I can go to. Unfortunately money is always the issue.

  5. I had that country life on 51 acres a half a mile driveway away from my neighbors with animals, a brook, big gardens, milk from the cow and eggs from the chickens. This is how I grew up until my dad decided to sell it without asking our opinions. I was only in my teens, but I still wonder “What if” the farm was never sold. How different my life would be today. I miss the farm and the wonderful life I had there. To hop on my horse and ride bareback through the fields was great ! What an adventure I had.

    1. Your post reminds me of my mom’s experience, which was a flip of yours. She was a small-town girl and in high school when her dad anmounced the family was moving to the country. This was in the 1940’s. He had bought a farm in a different part of the county so my mom and her siblings had to change schools and my mom missed out on junior prom with her friends. That probably was a big reason why she hated the country so much. A year later her dad said they were moving back to the small town and my mom was thrilled. Years later when I lived in the country she kept telling me how much she hated the country. She’s always had the notion that what she likes is what everyone should like!

  6. Lovely post. I often think, “what if,” and imagine a very different life. A life at the beach and filled with a peaceful mind. I like to think I would have made better decisions, but I don’t.

    For now, I am practicing living in the present and being grateful. It helps.

    1. I like the thought, “Grow where you are planted” better than “What if…?”
      Sensibly working toward a fulfilling life rather than yearning for “what could have been” all my life.

      1. After I was old enough to look back on my life, I have often wondered why we humans so often make the most important decisions in our lives when we are still teenagers. Decisions that impact our lives forever. I suppose it comes from the fact that our far, far back in time ancestors had such short lifespans.

  7. I think of “what if” all the time! I was always a “homebody” growing up. I was very content to just stay at home in the comfort and the security of my parents and siblings ! Then I met my husband when I was 21 and he was from another state than I lived in. We fell in love and married, started a family and lived in my state for 35 yrs. Then my husband became disabled with health problems and he wanted to retire and move back to his home state. That was the hardest decision for me because that meant I was going to have to leave my children and the rest of my family. We did move and that was 16 yrs ago and I still say to myself every day “what if” I had married someone else maybe I would still be living near my family! I am a firm believer in things happen for a reason and I guess mine was that my daughter and granddaughter did follow me to this state and my granddaughter met her husband in college here and is about to have her first baby!

  8. I’ve wondered “what if” many many times over my life. At one point, I just yearned to live in a little town that had no vehicles at all.. everywhere you went was by horseback or you walked. And I’ve always dreamed of living in a little cabin in the woods.. I came close one time… it WAS a little cabin until my ex and I built on a big addition! I liked it better as a “cabin”, with spring fed water and no plumbing. Of course, some places you could live in a cabin would not have power or internet! I love photography too.. and would love to do what you dream about, roam the countryside taking photos, and sharing them with others. I still do that, but I drive to a spot, taking my camera with me, just to try to capture something unusual and breathtaking. I live in town now but still miss (and yearn for) the country, the peace and quiet, no neighbors and lots of privacy.

  9. Good afternoon Brenda,

    Such an interesting post. I find myself thinking what if when I am sad or angry about something in my life. What if I would have stayed with “so and so” what if I would have stayed in France, what if I would have finished my Phd? Then at the end of the day I go to bed and I think of the wonderful life I have led and the people I have in my life and know that I am right where I am supposed to be, that all of my what ifs are actually part of where and why I am where I am at.

    I think that your life is already a little of your what if, you have some animals, Ivy, and Charlie, and the birds, squirrels, and other animals outside your door and in the park. You create beautiful photos and are a nature photographer, to share with us and I am sure that you could sell them online if you wanted as prints. And you don’t have to care for all of the farm animals and land.

    Have a great day and thank you for helping me to take the time to day and ponder this beautiful post.

  10. beautiful ponderings. and an almost poetic post.
    I have a wabi sabi soul and it’s rather comforting to me really.

    and even though your path is taking you where it is now…
    we are still enjoying your excellent photography
    and the LOVE for your animals and all of nature! thank you! xo

  11. Love that quote and have certainly felt that pull when I hear a train whistle. It is like a call to evaluate your choices ; it causes a longing for something you missed but can’t identify. It is a lonely sound too because it makes you aware that time is passing . I feel that same tug of loss in the fall when I hear the honking of geese as they fly overhead for warmer climates. I pause, I listen and wonder, like you, what might have been…

  12. I guess we all have to just have faith that we were destined for the life we have. I think we all think about what if? In the end I believe fate decides what our life will be with us always making choices through our life. While fate is a determining factor we still have choices that we make. Interesting post Brenda. I have been there and have thought What If? Hope the new week will be good.

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