Roads, and their Travelers

Oct 25, 2009


Two roads diverged in a yellow woodroads

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 as 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 kept the first for another day!

Yet, knowing how way leads onto 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 took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference

Why are these words from Robert Frost so evoking and haunting at the same time?  As so much of today’s decisions seem to be in flux, in transition, perhaps that is why these words have a special poignance.  Transitions imply a fork in the road, choices arise and decisions are required.  For me there has always been an association of the last line, “And that has made all the difference” with some type of relief, a happy ending of sorts.  As in, ‘whew, that decision was the right one and my, how it changed everything.’  However, upon reading it today I see there is no specific cause for this association.

But, isn’t that why we want to look backwards and forwards at the roads in our lives, to see which were or will be “the right” ones?  What I like about this poem is it evokes this pain, “And sorry I could not travel both,” that is, the pain of making choices and thus leaving the road not chosen behind, because “I doubted if I should ever come back.”  What does a “right road” mean if there is no way to distinguish its path from the other road?  As Frost so eloquently states, we are but “one traveler” and with no likelihood of returning to this fork in the road, the values of right and wrong roads start to make no sense.  They are roads, pathways, journeys, life stories, and yes some ways have more or less challenges, more or less scenic views, more or less mild weather, but we don’t know what the other road would have entailed, once we have chosen the one we will travel.  And thus saying one is “right” or another “wrong” becomes irrelevant.

Oh, how long do we take to make this decision, “And be one traveler, long I stood”? Yes, I’ve stood long before a fork in the road, very, very long for some forks.  For while they may not be right or wrong, nevertheless these are important decisions…which will make all the difference.  How humbling that thought.

What about you?  Do you feel the weight of Frost’s “sigh” when you choose between two roads?

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