Sunday, April 02, 2006

Living in a Poem

Yesterday, for all of sixty seconds, I lived in a poem.

The weatherman had been calling for a good chance of rain, but as my daughter will attest in her high-pitched confident voice, "Weatherman lie" so we didn't stock much faith in the prediction, although the sky to the west was a bruised purple color already.

Spring is making its presence known where I live and daffodils and crocuses have sprung up like yellow and lavender confetti around the yard. Robins are flashing their colors as they announce the season change, and the wind that was kicking up outside is finally warm again.

My wife had yet another business meeting on Saturday morning, and I packed my son and daughter up and drove to Lake Redman, a wide, sprawling park of woods and water and winding paths through it all.

After playing on the new playground equipment for a while, we sat at the edge of the lake, ate some chips, drank some juice, and watched a cardinal play among the thorn bushes. A pair of ravens called out to us from the tree tops and the wind kicked up stronger.

The three of us began to walk along a well-worn path into the woods and I smiled as my kids quieted down, taking in their surroundings and enjoying them for what simple pleasures they are.

The paths through Lake Redman aren't the refined, wide paths you'd find in an upscale park. Most of them are framed with large ridges of rock and sun bleached deadfalls of wood. At the first split of the path, my daughter, who had taken lead, stopped and asked me which way to go. The path split into two distinct terrains - there was a high road, visibly more rocky with twists of cedar roots and loose gravel at its base. The other direction was a worn downhill path, noticeably easier to navigate.

I told Chloe she could choose, but told her to take a minute first and think about it. She took a good look at both directions, weighing them in.

Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, had hit me moments before, and as Chloe turned and told me she chose the rougher of the two paths, her choice filled me with such pride that I gave her a kiss and told her I was proud of her, and asked her if she knew why. She shook her head no, and I recited the last couple of lines from Frost that I could remember.

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, 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.
- Frost

We sat and talked for a while about it, how most people would have taken the easy road. And I told her that few people would choose the tougher, rocky road but because of it, she would see things that most people wouldn't see.

My daughter's six, but I've lost count of how many have said she has an old soul. It's hard to tell what she absorbs and what doesn't get filtered by her sponge-like brain, though I'll admit she amazes me more often than not by the breadth of what she can comprehend.

She seemed to toss what I'd told her around for a few moments, while my son proceeded to get pine sap on his hands. Then the three of us went on walking around the lake. Beneath the canopy of the trees, the wind was cut back, and the sunlight was warm. The pair of ravens kept time with us as we walked, and every once in a while we'd hear geese honking in the distance, the whistle of chipmunks, or mysterious crackle of twigs in the underbrush.

It was a fine day, the rain held, and we walked for a long time before circling back and going home.

And all the while, I kept thinking about how many paths lay before us. How many times we take the path worn down. How many eyes have already taken in the scenery. How many times we allow our days to be exactly the same.

And the other road, the one less travelled, seen and chosen and trodden by so few.

And our choices make all the difference.