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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