I must have a little Walter Mitty—James Thurber’s meek, mild daydreamer—in me. A couple of days ago, I was sitting on the porch and watched a squirrel scamper up a tree with a large nut in his mouth, then run along the telephone wire across the street, oblivious to all the pitfalls below. “How cool is that!” I said to myself. Well, that got me going…
I looked up into a cloudless October sky. How cool would it be to be a bird? To effortlessly soar ever higher in the gyre and see all there is to see with a view named just for me?
Then I thought about the ocean. How cool would it be to be an octopus? They’re such shy, intelligent, graceful creatures. I could change my color or move fluidly along the ocean floor or hide under a rock, compressing myself to almost nothing. When the time came, I would tend my eggs, knowing my life’s purpose was complete, fulfilled. Or maybe I could be a humpback whale cruising the seven seas, breaching whenever I felt like it, just to show off.
I kept going. How cool would it be to be a marine archeologist and discover a long-lost sunken Spanish galleon with thousands of gold doubloons spilled across the ocean floor? Or maybe I would find a pirate’s treasure or Amelia Earhart’s plane or solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle? How cool would that be!
The images kept coming, non-stop. How cool would it be to be an airline pilot on a CAVU day, flying over great cities and small towns, fields and farms, broad rivers and snow-capped mountains, even continents and oceans? I would touch down right on time half way ‘round the world! Or maybe I would be a nurse holding a grateful patient’s hand, or a teacher watching a student finally master a difficult concept, or even an astronaut floating weightlessly in space as I stared down at the big blue marble that is Earth? How cool would that be!
Then things really began to get weird. How cool would it be to be a Stradivarius, tucked under the chin of a world-renowned violinist, say Anne Sophie Mutter or Nicky Benedetti or Itzhak Perlman. True, I would be 400 years old, but I’d be babied, coddled in velvet, flying first class, and insured for millions of dollars. Audiences would hush to hear me, then explode in thunderous applause when I finally fell silent.
A new thought came into focus: how cool would it be to be any one of us, living in a country that despite all its prejudice and pain is still trying to form a more perfect Union, still striving to hear the whispered voices of our better angels, still daring to believe that great dreams really can come true?
Then this: how cool would it be to simply be a man who is happy, healthy, content; trusted and trusting; respected and respectful, loved and loving. Someone secure in the knowledge that his time on this planet was meaningful, productive, and a blessing to others?
Just then, my wife came out on the porch. I guess I must have had that look in my eyes because she said, “Are you ok?” “Fine,” I said. “Just daydreaming.” She looked at me as she often does and asked, “What do you want for dinner?”
“Wouldn’t it be cool,” I said, “if we were living in Paris and there was a three-star Michelin restaurant right around the corner and we could go tonight? You could have snails and I’d have sweetbreads!”
“How about lasagna?” she said.
I might have sighed. “Sounds great!”
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com