Let’s take just a moment to regard Robert Frost’s brilliantly crafted and exhaustingly overquoted poem, “The Road Not Taken.” As much as I love Frost, in the past decade I’ve started to regard that poem with the sort of glazed-over expression people usually reserve for cheesy Hallmark cards or those quotes used in high school yearbooks and usually attributed to “Anonymous.” Which is certainly not fair to the humble, noble Frost.
As M. and I prepare for our move to Germany, I find myself thinking a lot about choices and consequences. I like that Frost’s paths are assumed equal; even though he talks about the missed one “with a sigh,” you don’t get the impression that it would have been superior– just that not seeing it is hard to take. For the most part, I cling to the idea that there is one right decision out there and then live in fear that I’m not making it, but Frost’s paths have been “worn really about the same.” This is a comforting and strange idea. I hope it’s true.
Even though we are very excited about the big move, for reasons big and small that I won’t cover here, we also feel sad to leave this place that is so clearly “home.” Today, coming back from the beach, M. looked out over the water and said, “This town is just a little treasure, isn’t it?” Where is the meaning in the choice, we sometimes wonder? We weigh the losses and gains. We talk about coming back– for summers, holidays, eventually someday for good (“Oh we’ll be back,” M. said once, “Even if we have to wait until we retire”). Yet knowing how way leads on to way…
In the face of these inevitable choices, what can we do but choose the path and set off, our feet crunching leaves as we walk, confidently, the memory of the other path fading?
Let’s close this post the right way:
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.