Did you ever read Dillon’s book, and if so, why didn’t you share it with us?
Have you ever wanted something so badly that you were afraid to believe it could ever come true? Look at me… you can tell I’ve been spending a fair bit of time around one Drew Stratton lately. If you haven’t met him yet, you will eventually. He’s one of our most recent newcomers to Pigeon Grove and a splendid one at that. Suffice it to say, his legal tendency to answer one question by asking another appears to be influencing my thoughts at the moment.
Seriously though, I’ve had more than thirty years to ponder your question, and it’s a good one. I ran across this picture of me from the time right after I moved to Pigeon Grove. Even though my decision to uproot myself was something bold and adventurous, I had never felt more vulnerable. I suppose those two sentiments—courage and vulnerability—go hand-in-hand.
Do you know who took this picture? Jack Burgess. The same Jack who turned my world upside down in the best way possible. The same Jack who shared peach tarts with me on our front porch, encouraging me to take all those lemons in my life and turn them into sweet lemonade. I have so many stories to share about Jack and me. But Jack aside, I’m not sure I would be where I am today without my brother and his niece, Lizzie. Gosh, she’s an adult with her own family now, but I’ll always remember her as that young teenager who found a way to connect Jack and I through their shared love for art.
Art. It comes in all forms… sketches, paintings, books. I realize I’m skirting your question. Truth is, it’s tough to answer. You see, for me, there are two types of courage. There’s the kind where you do something sort of bold, crazy, for all the world to see. Escaping from my old life and fleeing to Pigeon Grove was definitely one of those things. Hank, Lydia, Russell, Lizzie, and eventually Jack… they all kept nudging me toward where I was meant to go.
But there’s a second type of courage. It’s the kind only you know about. It stays protected inside, and there’s no one who can pull it out of you except yourself. And after thirty years of doing my best to embrace both types of bravery, I can tell you with undeniable certainty that the private one sheltered inside the heart is so much more difficult to honor.
That’s what happened with Dillon’s book. From the first moment I picked up Homecoming, I knew it was something special. It deserved to be treasured. But as I’ve thought for so, so long… living with the hope of something can be as satisfying as the real thing. It turns out, that way of looking at things is also overwhelmingly stressful.
I was the road not taken. I turned that phrase over in my mind too many times to count. On good days, I saw the white picket fence and children running around the yard with our dog. On the not-so-good days, I couldn’t escape the regret of seeing Dillon and me take different forks in the road, and all because of my choices. But back to that picture of me…
Jack took it, and it was right after he called my name, grabbing my attention from something else. I had been staring at the charcoal sketch of my home and watercolor painting of my garden that he made for me. Jack had since expanded his artistic endeavors to include photography. And while I’m not one to like many picture of myself, I will forever treasure this one. As much for the person who captured it as what it shows: everything. The wistful desire in my eyes mixed with blissful content encapsulated the moment—and my life. So many different emotions and experiences blend together into a confusing and complicated swirl of color.
But there’s another reason I love this photograph, for what it inspired me to do. I walked inside moments after this picture was taken. I went straight to my bookshelf, opened the front cover of Dillon’s book with my hands trembling, and stared at those same words once again: For Claire, the Road Not Taken. You wouldn’t believe the courage, that kind hiding behind the protective heart, that I needed to summon in order to turn that page. But turn it I did. And I read Dillon’s book from cover to cover on that day.
I did it for Dillon, because after all, he dedicated the book to me. I did it for Jack, because I realized how much our relationship was being hindered by my distractions from the past. But if I’m being completely honest, and perhaps a bit selfish, I did it for me. Once I worked up the courage to push beyond that uncomfortable anticipation for what I might find inside Dillon’s words, my mind—and more importantly, my heart—was able to begin focusing on the more important things in my life.
Jack came in from time to time. He brought me a cup of hot tea and reappeared every hour or so, laying a gentle hand on my shoulder to let me know he was there. I suppose, looking back, that was some more of that gentle external nudging that helped me summon that silent courage on the inside. And that’s what made Jack my soulmate. It’s cliché, but he always knew just what I needed, and he always gave it to me in a way that felt like coming home.
So, I guess my answer is quite long-winded, but I did read Dillon’s story from beginning to end. I’m not sure if it happened when the time was right, or if it happened when the right person helped me see it was time. Either way, I’m so happy that I did because it has helped me become the person I am today.
I always thought, since it’s a book the entire world could track down and read, that sharing its contents wasn’t all that important. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered Dillon only ever had a single copy printed. So, yes, that changes things… in many ways. There are pieces of his story that feel even more intimate now, since they were only ever shared with me, and this makes me want to keep them protected. But I also understand how important his words are in shaping my story and the person I have become today.
His book still stays tucked safely on the shelf in my home. But if my hunches are right, I don’t suppose it will be there for much longer. And even if I never reveal every word found between the two covers of his story, there are parts I would love to share with you, when the time is right, of course. But something tells me that moment is approaching with more certainty, now that I know where and how to find that quiet courage on the inside. And I’m sure all my friends and family in Pigeon Grove will continue nudging me along too :)
If you have any other questions for Claire (or any other characters from Dave’s stories), be sure to email Dave at email@example.com. If your question is chosen to be answered in our online café, you’ll receive a $10 gift card to a retailer of your choice.