It was here, while waiting for my brother, that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books. But I knew a story had begun, perhaps long ago near the sound of water. And I sensed that ahead I would meet something that would never erode so there would be a sharp turn, deep circles, a deposit, and quietness.
-from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
There are so many stories to tell she isn’t quite sure where to begin. Lately she’s been waffling about where and how and when to best tell her stories, and which stories need to be told at all.
Sometimes she feels as if she’s hoarding her happiness, keeping so much sacred and soft and to herself, but then that isn’t entirely true, isn’t probably true at all, because she’s been told she radiates joy even when she isn’t climbing mountains to sing at the top of her lungs. She’s been told she has light behind her eyes even when she isn’t dancing from moment to moment, skipping merrily from mile to mile, each step revealing words and plans and looks and trips and bellies full of laughter.
She wants to tell you about epic road trips, whaleslap weekends, saturated spring breaks. About ground nut stew and soft green trails, accidental sunburns and mothers who bake blueberry muffins and talk with happy tears in their eyes. She could cheerfully regale you with stories about her preferred ring-toss stance (unconventional and yet effective!), how poorly she plays bean bag toss (and how she refuses to call it “corn-hole”), high-fives and bike rides. She wants to tell you about brewery tours (she could this minute write a compelling ode to Scotch Ale), meeting new friends who instantly felt like old ones, easy conversation with nary a trace of small talk, how much she’s missed artichokes.
She wants to tell you about twenty miles run and years of loss undone by legs turning over even when they wanted to scream, wanted to cling to doubts about their ability to careen along trails unexpectedly unfriendly. She wants to tell you about cramping calves and a high-ten she almost collapsed in, about how just the sight of him made her want to run farther, run faster, master her mutinying limbs just a little bit longer.
Once in the recently passed past someone well-meaning attempted to unearth historic heartache to make a point. He loves her and she knows it, but not being an authority on her heart, he was out of bounds and she told him so, without hesitation. She wasn’t able to say much else for the duration of the conversation, so overcome was she with a range of emotions and all of them giant-sized, all of them wiggling in their seats while eagerly raising their hands, vying for front-running attention. So she sat still and thankful someone who knows her heart could and would and did speak, not for her but for himself, boldly, but with heartfelt sincerity and patience.
Not wanting to be too hasty in her storytelling, too harried with her heartfelt responses, daily she’s been collecting her words, fishing them from streams, plucking them from early morning sunbeams, finding them tucked behind her ears amidst strands of hair longer than she’s grown in years.
She could tell you she has a past, yes, and it’s both black and bright, as all pasts are. As everything is. But what she really wants to tell you about is her present. Her now full to the brim with smiles and inside jokes, with once-buried speed and dirt under her feet. Her now littered with light and vertical promise, with tie-dye and big sky and endless ridgelines. Her now rushing steadily with memories worth cherishing and keeping, joy seeping in from all sides, threatening often to make her cry. She wants to tell you about a present routinely making her grin, causing her to swim headfirst into currents at once both new and thrilling and yet somehow easy to navigate, perpetually gentle. She knows she hasn’t seen this watercourse before, and yet it feels homegrown, feels winsome, feels perfect amounts of unknown.
Daily she finds herself pausing to revel in the frenetic beauty of her life. She would say she feels lucky, but that word never quite fit in her mouth just right. She would say she feels doors and walls and tangles of vines thrown asunder. She would say she feels as if she’s standing atop a high peak with pine boughs for arms and buttercups for eyes, a cool ocean breeze wafting through all of her favorite trees, a litany of trails unraveling their routes below and behind and beside her and all of them calling out to her in welcome and challenging tones, perpetually urging her to brighter and bigger and bolder movements, conversations, transformations.
She would say all of that and think it sounded as much like truth as oversimplification.
Mostly she wants you to know she’s really very happy.
(She really hopes you are, too.)