Thursday, December 18, 2008
I don’t think I’ve ever looked at this split in the woods road near my cabin without thinking of Robert Frost’s poem, "The Road Not Taken." Perhaps it’s how the snow covers the roads, perhaps it’s how the trees frame the snow-covered paths, but this morning, that poem seems even more apt.
Neither of these roads sees much traffic, and at the point where they split, one doesn’t look much different than the other. Unlike Frost, however, I have taken both paths at one time or another, and I can attest that their similarity ends here. The one continues along Roundtop’s access roads, the other grows ever narrower and winds down the mountain, eventually ending deep in the forest along Beaver Creek.
In a way, their ultimate difference only emphasizes the meaning of Frost’s poem: different paths lead to different outcomes. A choice that doesn’t seem like much of a choice at the point where you make it leads to a vastly different outcome. And because we can’t see where either path goes, we have to choose which path to take without knowing where it will end up.
Frost chose the path "less traveled by," but he also acknowledged that both worn about the same, so his choice of the one "less traveled" was perhaps more of a judgment call than an obvious choice. That’s how most of life is: a judgment call based on limited information. You do your best. You move on. You hope you did the right thing. Perhaps the important thing is that you recognize the choice when you make it and know it will lead to a different place than the other one, no matter which path you choose, even if the roads look the same at the point where they split.