Paths

Robert Frost left us thinking about two paths converging and our taking the less traveled one. I’ve always wanted to discuss this idea with the poet. One path coverages with another so continuously, finding a less traveled one could be as elusive as containing a cloud.

I’ve placed a photo at the bottom of the page of a less traveled road. Deer graze along its edges. Ranchers drive Ford 250’s from mile section to mile section. Sportsmen hunt in the adjacent fields. Electric poles and barbed wire line the roadway. The road itself has been well groomed, graded and graveled.

Less traveled compared to the highway three miles to the west and less traveled than the street I live on, this road is not silent. I hear my shoes crunching on the roadbed. The “bobwhite” calls of quail and the gobble of a turkey mix with birdsongs. Tall grass rustles in the pastures.

The people who live along this road go to their grandchildren’s ball games, care for ailing neighbors, manage flood control, teach school, repair machinery, support their churches, and buy groceries. With every use of this road to town, to the funeral home, to church, to school, go people with plans and concerns.

The people I know along this road have chosen to live here because they grew up nearby, worked elsewhere, and returned to open a B&B on a hill overlooking a small lake. That’s why I know them. We stay at their B&B.

This isn’t a road in a place I would choose to live. I like city life and its stimulating choices. But I also like retreats where I can feel centered. I like knowing I can catch a plane, rent a car, and drive three hours to be at this quiet but not silent place with its less traveled road, with its deer, quail, and wild turkeys, with its rolling pastures and sweeps of wild flowers.

In the city the wheels in my head barely halt even when I sleep, but in this country place where people are spaced miles apart and the horizon stretches into forever, my mind turns off. I can sit quietly without jumping up to do chores. Here I am not in charge of clean linens, or breakfast, or weeding. Here I don’t maintain the lane or manage the fishing dock.

Believe, me. I find God everywhere, not just at quiet retreats. I, however, sometimes need to drop my organized life in order to feel how spiritually intact I really am.

We are on hugging terms with our hosts who are tethered to this place of refuge. “Alice,” I said, “thank you for making such a place for us and others. It is work, I know, but it is also a gift.”

As for Robert Frost, I want to say, if I were coming out of the woods on a snowy evening, I, driven by curiosity, might also choose the less traveled road, but not always. Sometimes I have had to travel along worn pathways to get to a less traveled one.

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