It’s pretty obvious I’ve been away from this blog for a while. In fact, I’ve been away for a while in general. My quest: to explore all of life’s possibilities, a large number of which seem to present during the summer.
This summer I’ve made trips to Lake George to teach a writing workshop, toSaranacLaketo cover a plein air festival—and again to step into the life of a full-time plein air painter. I came back to my freelance writing job for a few weeks and then promptly took work as Locations Manager to a feature film shooting inConnecticut. None of these jobs have regular hours. They all bleed into each other, and into every corner of my personal life. In future posts I will explore/explain what I learn on these individual journeys, but for today I want to share a poem that keeps resonating in my head, because it completely nails my own personal life M.O.
It was more than a year ago I heard this poem read at a reading inNorth Easton,Massachusetts. The poet, Craig Fredericks, gave a wonderful reading that night, opening by saying, “there is an ancient Hebrew Law, rediscovered with the dead sea scrolls, that prohibits ‘saying anything stupid on the Sabbath.’ With that in mind…”
With Apologies to Robert Frost
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood. The path to the left was more travelled by and that’s the way I went on my first walk, hoping it led to, I don’t know, a fishing hole or a secret circus. I did meet a nice couple out walking their dog.
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood. Next walk I took the path less travelled by. It led first to some stone walls and then someone’s back yard. Retracing my steps, and finding an even less travelled by path, I came upon a hunting perch high in an old oak tree.
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood. My third walk I started out on the less travelled by path and then after ten minutes bushwhacked left through a clearing I expect formed over a shallow New England ledge, climbed over a couple car sized glacial erratic, then though an aspen grove until I found again the more travelled by path.
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood. Looking to make a day of it I brought a small pack containing water, a ham sandwich with hot honey mustard, some chips and a coupla apples. Bug spray, some of that stuff you put on cuts so they don’t get infected, a sweat shirt, flashlight, and compass. (I also had my wallet, pocketknife, lighter and tissues I always bring on these walks.) Lastly I brought a roll of Christmas red ribbon which I tied to branches to mark new trail.
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood…. I know where they go.
Since he sent me the poem, Fredericks has made changes, mostly to the last line. His most recent version is “I think I know where it goes,” although another version had “I know that patch of trees.”
But for me, the version I heard that night is the one I can’t let go of….because I do approach life by going down every path just to see where it goes. Once I know, I don’t have to go again, unless it interests me, and then I continue further, maybe stepping off the path into the woods, maybe just examining it from a different point of view.
Either way, I think this line speaks to the artist in all of us. We look at things we pass by every day, and then we look again. The more common path is the easy one, but the other one calls to us with promises of something more. Art tries to make sense of the world and everything beyond—a task that is by definition unachievable. Still, we try. And the way we do it is by taking the familiar one step further, and maybe another, until we are well beyond the normal comfort zone of the common path. And this is how we find the delight in life, by looking past the ordinary.
The original poem that it honors, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, was all about choice, because the traveler could not take both paths and had to choose the common path from the one less traveled by. It was about loss, and wondering what might have happened on the other path. Frost leaves the other path for another day, knowing he will probably never go there anyway.
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.
The Fredericks homage poem presumes that time allows us both options—and most of us would still choose the same path again—most of us, except for poets and artists, who are driven to look beyond.
Two paths diverged in a black pine wood—and now I know where they go. This is the unexpected gift I received by attending a poetry reading with a friend last year, just to keep her company. You never know where inspiration will present itself. Thank you Craig Fredericks for adding to the lyrics of my life.
Obviously, since Craig and interpreted his, and the original poem differently, there are many ways to hear a poem. Please share what you hear…