A good story leaves a mark


Life in a farming town knows its rhythms. Growing up surrounded by dairy farms and wheat fields, I came to recognize the signs of seasons changing, advancing like clockwork, sure as the sunrise, never varying from their course. Rural life fell safely within the boundaries of the seasons, measured by the cadence of green tractors sowing perfect lines in patchwork pastures. Plant, water, harvest. Plant, water, harvest. From a young age, I could see my future stretched out before me like a dirt road in the prairies, no twisting or turning, just on, on, on, rambling forward into the horizon.

Something must have been building in me, something questioning the typical procession of the only life I knew. Otherwise, when I found the story, would I have given it a second thought? Somewhere beneath everything I knew was the faintest whisper, speaking to me of that which I didn’t know – that there was a boundless world out beyond the pasture fences, and that I was meant to go find it.

I first found his story tucked neatly in the faded pages of an old National Geographic magazine. ‘World-roaming Teen-ager Sails On,’ the cover beckoned. I stopped what I was doing, split open the musty pages, and dove in.

I’ll never forget how I inhaled his story, not even putting that yellow book down until I had savoured every word and studied every photograph. I discovered he’d written a book, ‘Dove,’ and immediately searched it out. When it finally arrived, I was absolutely spellbound by the tales of this new friend I’d found.

His name was Robin Lee Graham, and his story slammed the door shut on the prospect of living a mundane, predictable life. He was just my age, and in April of 1970 he became the youngest person to sail around the world alone. It was a tale of epic adventure, complete with scenes of disaster, triumph, romance, daring, and paradise found. I hung on every word, lost with him in lands of smiling island faces, my heart pounding as tempest waves suggested impending doom, sympathizing with him during moments of desperate loneliness, and all the while marveling that seas could be full of anything other than golden stalks of wheat.

The words of Graham’s journey became fuel for my own dreams; it was a story powerful enough to change the direction of my life. It simply wasn’t enough to admire the story. I wasn’t even satisfied by immersing myself in every word – it sparked a hunger for something bigger than words on dog-eared pages could satiate. Robin Lee Graham’s story had the power to inspire me to live my own daring, unforgettable adventure. He taught me that I, too, could have a story worth telling.

Photo: National Geographic Back Issues

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A good story leaves a mark

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