The Road Untaken

I’ve always liked poems…

Well, certain poems. Certain styles, and definitely certain authors. I’ve never understood the logic of some poetry patterns, nor the rules associated with what works and what doesn’t. Still, there are some poems that speak to me. Subtly. And often boldly.

Consider Robert Frost. I’ve enjoyed many of his poems. He was chosen by JFK to read a poem at his inauguration. Due to complications with the day, he ended up reciting a favored poem, and not the one he had just written for the occasion. Or so the story goes.

In school, Frost was the one poet that spoke volumes to my understanding, in that his words and stride made sense to this young mind. Just like many, “Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening” is probably a number one favorite. The closing words are phrases I have used often.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Miles to go…and promises to keep. The reason to keep going even when the quietness and beauty of the winter traveled road is beckoning. I remember stopping by a snowy woods in Alaska one cold and dark night. I recalled his poem and it immediately rang to my ears a sincere note. The darkest evening of the year would have been the Winter Solstice…

Another Frost favorite is called, “The Road Not Taken”. The dilemma of a road that diverges in a yellow wood (probably the fall) and the ponderous moment of choosing one, or the other, but silently wishing there was a way to enjoy them both. The traveler makes the choice for the one less traveled, “And that has made all the difference.” Each were equal choice, but the one taken was grassy and wanted wear.

In my life, I have often felt like this poem. Take the way less traveled. Do not go where the masses may go, but strike out for the boundary of the realm where few people go. I love to go to untraveled places, staying away from the tourist crowd, walking in paths that few will ever enjoy.

It’s not that the other way is wrong, but I’m a loner by nature. Some would call an introvert. I am often happiest when it’s quiet and there are few others along the way. I can get my “crowd” buzz in a simple coffee shop, where chatter fades with the grinding of the beans, or the shot of steam marking another successful brew. Give me a few minutes there to connect with others, then it is very easy to slip out and head for the solo drive. Quiet. No radio chatter, or music to divide my attention.

According to Frost, either way you choose to go is fine,
his traveler simply chose the quieter path.

A number of years ago, several of us took advantage of a fly-in fishing trip. An hour flight into the bush out of Anchorage, Alaska. As we watched the float plane head off into the wild blue yonder, I realized how far off the beaten path we were. True, a couple of weeks hard march and we could circle the water and end up in some form of civilization, but there were bears in abundance, and streams, rivers, and munching moose.

There was never a lonelier feeling. Even with the 4 of us together, and, yes, other fishing camps nearby… It was the sense of the ease of escape that had left us stranded and isolated on the bank of a river.

Imagine that intrepid explorer, leaving the familiar behind and heading where few have ever traveled, or where it was a true unknown. I think of Neal Armstrong, stepping foot on another marble that hangs in our sky, very visible on some nights. The first to do so. 

Sea of Galilee, March 2013

The other road. The one I’ve chosen. The path I walk. It is my path. And not the road many others take. I liken it to a teaching by Jesus in his famous sermon on the mount. It’s quite possible I stood on that very mount overlooking the Sea of Galilee where there was ample room for the thousands to sit, and the natural amphitheater of water and hills to project his voice.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)

Here, there is a difference to the path one might choose. Broad, or narrow. Destruction, or life. Crowded, or nearly barren. Maybe this less traveled road is found by the few that chose a better way, striking out from the crowds for a more perfect life. Not the broad way that some clamber for, where everyone else has gone. But that quiet road that leads to a different destination. The better of the two.

Here, the road taken is better than the road not taken. 


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