The depth of Robert Frost’s most famous poem, The Road not Taken, is often overlooked. The poem is remembered by the lines “two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by.” The poem, though, is tinged with regret (“And sorry I could not travel both”), and it reflects the difficult choices life presents us when we come to a metaphorical fork in the road. (Yogi Berra’s sage advice to “take it,” notwithstanding.)
Even when I had lost the lion’s share of my faith, I still believed that everything happened for a reason. Having since regained the better part and more, I hold firm to the belief that the paths I have taken were not trodden in vain. They have made me who I am today.
Last August, Anna, the kids and I took a trip to England with her parents. I wanted to take photographs of the moors, and so I agreed to an evening walk with her mother and uncle, both of whom it turns out are rotten liars and sadists. I love my mother-in-law beyond measure, but I learned a valuable lesson that evening: never trust an Englishman (or woman), who tells you that a walk is “quite pleasant” or “easy.” This is the same woman, who once told Anna’s sister that the cure for disliking walking was more walking, which probably should’ve been my first clue.
The Brits have a word for what we did up and down the moors. They called the steep climbs and rapid descents “scrambling.” I call it attempted murder. My heart has never beat as hard, nor have my legs ever felt as weak. Yet the photographs that I was able to take, once we reached the top, were spectacular. The irony of all ironies was that at the pinnacle of our “scramble,” there were no paths, only heather and ferns and potential. The photograph below was taken on that hike.
Frost may have taken the road less traveled by, but we forged our own. I reflected on the symbolism of this hike only afterwards when we were safely on the journey home. I didn’t have the capacity (mental or lung) to contemplate it in the moment.
The above photograph was taken in Alaska, on a much more “pleasant” hike. We were younger then, without kids, and without the concomitant cares. I don’t know what I would’ve done differently had I known what lay ahead. I don’t regret the paths that I’ve taken, because I am grateful and content where they have led me. But I took the less traveled path, and that has made all the difference.