An Edit in Nature, or the Promise of Possibilities

I’m currently sitting underneath the trees in Old Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama as the sun sets across the woods, the sounds of the night critters starting to echo around me.

This is Day 8 of my summer camping and running excursion, the first rural getaway after the trials of the year. This is also the first moment I’ve had to revisit the Invictus writers since the end of the school year on May 5. I’ve been traveling (Budapest, Denver, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and now Alabama) mostly for work, and while I kept intending to edit, there just wasn’t time. I’ll continue to travel for another 8 days, but not at the same frenetic pace. And not for the same reasons.

This excursion is about me, and today was my planned editing day. We’re down to the last few essays, which means we’ll soon have a book, If I Leave Here Tomorrow.

I’m excited about that as I edit underneath the trees.

This is how I imagined life would be (although truth be told I was in a cabin in the woods overlooking a lake, not a tent; there was a beautiful woman who sometimes brought me coffee; and there was a dog). Writing, exercising, nature. These are the three things that have always resonated in my head from the time I can remember things resonating in my head.

These seven young writers have made that possible, and I’ve thought about them quite a bit as I’ve run up the sides of very big hills during this trip. Your mind goes to very wonderful places when you push yourself physically. These young writers – and the possibilities they have presented me – are now part of those wonderful places.

Today I finished editing Kelly Shea’s piece, one that we have worked on for months on end. It’s been a climb. There were moments when I know she considered just designing the book, eschewing her writing completely.

I sat in Starbuck’s today, sipping coffee and reading her work, I couldn’t help but be moved by her words. Her story – which you will soon read – is a wonderful tale of an awkward young woman finding her way to find her way. (Read that again slowly, it does make sense.) It’s not about a final destination or  a completed journey. It’s the story of life, of possibility.

As I read her piece (and tweeted my favorite lines), I tweeter to her: “if I ever have a daughter, I hope she turns out just like you.” I did that through tears.

I cried because I know how hard she’s worked on this. I cried because I am simply in love with her words. I cried because I know this project is almost over. And I cried because I know how much this project has meant for all of us.

I’ve continued to see this group interact on Twitter. I’ve read their blogs. I’ve watched them realize how special their group really, truly was.

There are so few times that you find yourself sitting under a tree as the sun sets across the forest editing the beautiful words that writers have written. Life in that way is fleeting. These are things you know when your life becomes filled more with the sands of regret than the promise of possibilities.

I wouldn’t trade that knowledge for anything. This is how it was supposed to be.