Thursday, November 21, 2013

“On Paths Not Taken”

Published in Black Mountain News, November 14, 2013

Do you ever think about the doors you didn’t open? The paths you didn’t take? Recently, I’ve been mulling over what I might have discovered and how my life might have been shaped if I’d taken the left fork of the road instead of the right.

From the time I was about ten, I wanted to be a writer. My father must have known, even if I never said. For my twelfth birthday he surprised me with a Remington Rand typewriter.   

As a rebellious, anxious and confused teenager with minimal self-esteem, I tapped out stories on the clattering keys, wrote night poetry in the moonlit room I shared with my younger sister, and filled notebook after black-and-white speckled notebooks with the ramblings of my mind and adolescent emotions and impressions. I had to write, as if driven by a churning internal machine.

One day, as a college freshman, I passed the publications office. Taking a few steps back, I stood before the steely dull brown door. I reached out to hold its cold brass doorknob. But as if it burned my hand, I quickly released it, intimidated, and turned away to disappear into the mainstream of students flooding the corridors. Whatever courage I had was lost in fear and self-doubt.  

In my early twenties and newly married, my then husband, an artist, and I were invited to move from New York City to Rockport, Massachusetts. Rockport was our favorite getaway spot, a small, charming town renowned as an art colony.  

Bea McNulty, an artist and owner of the Granite Shore Inn, had taken a liking to us as frequent guests. Bea invited us to manage the hotel’s art gallery. That weekend, as we explored homes to live in, I was enthralled with a particular house that overlooked the bay. I remember looking through its front window, seeing straight through to the back window, where I could see masts of moored boats beyond through a prism of blue, purple, red and green glass bottles, like a kaleidoscope. What magic I could craft here, I thought.

But again, doubt and fear darkened the dream . . . and that life went unlived. I’d longed to live in a small town, closer to nature, to be part of a community where creativity was nurtured. Instead, we returned to the city. Instead of crafting magic from my own heart and imagination, I spent the next decades as an editor and publicist, editing and writing to fulfill the dreams of others.

One birthday, a friend of mine gifted me with a session to an astrologer, Brenda B. I was a born communicator, a triple Gemini, Brenda said. In past lives, she explained, I had been a leader, a revolutionary who’d put others at risk. As a result, in this lifetime, I suppressed my own ideas and beliefs and used my voice only for others. While skeptical about astrology, something about what Brenda said resonated in me.

In July, while touring Western North Carolina to find a future home, my husband and I discovered Black Mountain. I knew this was the place, the chance, to peel back the dark layers of self-repression, to take the left fork of the road instead of the right. It was my time.

Two months after we moved here, on a quiet Friday afternoon in October, I opened the door of the Black Mountain News. I stepped inside to introduce myself, not afraid but confident, sure of my goals, certain of my dreams. To my delight, I was warmly welcomed by Editor Jennifer Fitzgerald as if I’d come home to an old friend.

I’m not ashamed to say I’m madly in love with Black Mountain. Whatever the mood of my inner life, whatever my worries, concerns or frustrations, the day, the mountains, enfold me in peace and awe. And I write from my heart.

Yes, I regret some of the paths not taken, but I’m awfully grateful for the roads I’ve traveled because they’ve led me here.

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