Casting an essay into the hat

?If I?d danced with the Shadow, who knows? Maybe others would?ve joined us. Maybe they would?ve danced their hearts out, thanked us for getting them up on their feet and vowed they?d never forget us.? ?SHARON RANDALL

In western Maine on a piece of ground among 12 acres sits a picturesque 210-year-old New England bed and breakfast serving its guests everything from hot breakfasts in a gourmet dining room to golden sunsets from a screened-in wrap around porch. Across the road, loons flock onto Kezar Lake at its resting point at the foothills of the Presiden?tial Range of the White Moun?tains.

Picturesque must be an understatement. Who wouldn?t want to call that location their own?

The innkeeper is stepping away but she?s not selling. She?s giving it away, sort of. For 200 words and $125, someone (a one in 7,500 chance) will own it. In 1993, she took possession by writing the most convincing 200-word essay on why she was the ideal person to own and run the bed and breakfast.

Now, 22 years later, she?s ready to hand it over to someone else in the same way. The cumulative entry fees will provide her the value of the inn and one lucky winner will take the keys.

I wrote an essay. I think it was convincing. I had to be creative since I?ve never overseen a bed and breakfast. (I stayed in one once. Super cappuccino.) I?ve never worked in food service. (Outside of a three-night stint as a truck-stop waitress.) I?ve never been to Maine. (In all fairness, neither had the current innkeeper.)

But before I bought a stamp, these facts, combined with an interview given by the current innkeeper referencing 120 dinner guests on a good night, stacks of waffles made at the crack of dawn daily and something about 20 hour days, steered me back into reality.

Yes, I wrote an essay. It seems that?s the part?along with that storybook New England setting?I was interested in. I might have mailed it. But I didn?t.

One of my favorite quotes, which I share often, is from Sue Monk Kidd, who is stopping in Wichita next month on a new book tour. (Bucket list author?check!)

In her novel ?The Mermaid Chair,? she said, ?I had never done anything that took my own breath away, and I suppose now that was part of the problem?my chronic inability to astonish myself.?

I?ve been increasingly preoccupied with the act of not doing, and what it means to miss out on chances. Is it because I?ve never been to Maine? Or entered a contest to win a house built in 1805? More likely, it?s because I have daughter approaching adulthood, with a string of chances laid out in front of her. And because the past few years have landed me in an unexpected position in my own spot of that same ?hood.?

If the right chance comes up, will we even recognize it?

Columnist Sharon Ran?dall wrote about her split second decision to turn down a simple request. A hand extended to her over loud live music at a small club?an invitation to dance. Her thought, ?What would people think?? Her answer, ?No.?

?Here?s the thing,? she said, ? Nobody else was dancing. If I dared to be different?to get up and dance while everyone else stayed in their seats?what would people think of me??

For dances of all kinds and for chances big and small, we say no. Maybe it?s never been done. Or it?s unfamiliar. Or awkward. Maybe a family member would have laughed. Or an ex would have judged. Or a friend not understood.

What if the simple moves make the big marks? A word said, not stifled. An offer taken, not refused. A song danced, not sat through.

And for one in 7,500 out there somewhere, soon…an essay mailed, not filed.

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