Thursday, January 05, 2006


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.
-- Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken"

All the difference, indeed, for me and for numberless others through the generations. What a difference in my life to have stopped by woods on a snowy evening, to have walked in the autumn woods thinking that nothing gold can stay, to have watched the people on the beach neither out far nor in deep, to have spoken to my neighbor while mending the fence between us! All the difference between living and merely existing.

As we walk our separate roads, occassionally meeting or just waving at each other in passing, we pass through many crossroads. How many do we even notice? We fix our eyes on our destination and our minds on the most direct path, forgetting that it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey. It's the paths less traveled by that make all the difference. When we reach our destinations, we want to be able to say: "It was worth the trip."

As you walk through this new year, I encourage you to pay attention to the crossroads, the forks in the road. Stop and consider. Take the one grown up in weeds, sometimes. It's scary, sure. None of us know what monsters may lie in wait around the bend, but we must face our monsters. We must prove our worth. Some of us are destroyed by them, sure, but those who face their monsters with determination and honesty will win through. Scarred, probably, battered, oh yeah, but victorious, nonetheless. Better to take the road less traveled now than to get to the end and find all those monsters gathered there in a bunch.

Writers who stay on the pavement get nowhere. Nobody wants to see Interstate America. The dirt roads and shanty-towns are vastly more interesting. Through the maps out the window. Take that left turn at Albuquerque. Show us what you find out there in the wilderness.

I don't want to reach the end of my life, look back, and say: "Damn! I wish I'd gone another way." I want to say: "That was interesting. That was fun. I'd do it again, if I could."


At 3:21 PM, Blogger Mary Louisa said...

You've issued a great challenge, Carter, complete with some beloved Frost allusions. It won't be too many more decades before I reach apple-picking time, and I want to be able to savor that season without wondering what might've been. So, I'm going to do some writing tonight, come hell or high water. Or, more appropriately, come Fire or Ice.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Melly said...

Carter, you always touch on such important things, such brave things (at least to me).
I already have some regrets, but I do always try to live by this. It's not easy. It really isn't, but I hope that in the end it will be worth it.
Good luck to us and all the other travellers and may we at least keep each other company :)

At 7:36 PM, Blogger Carter said...

Hi, Mary Louisa. I'll be in the orchard long before you. It's never too late to find out what might be.

Life's too short for regrets, Melly. By the time we regret something, it's already too late to fix it, no? Let go, move ahead, you'll have plenty of time to look backward later.

Oh, and brave? Brave means being afraid but taking one more step anyway. That's one of the most important lessons I've learned: just one more step.

Enjoy the travel and enjoy the company. It's really all we have.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Jean said...

One. More. Step.

At 8:07 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Funny you chose that poem and this topic. I feel the same way, including looking back in my deathbed.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Carter said...

Jean, sometimes that next steo looks insurmountable. Baby steps are OK, and you should stop and rest when you need to. Just don't forget to start again.

Joel, this is something I think we all think about. It's really hard to break out of our comfort zone, though, and that's what leads to lives of "quiet desperation".

At 4:12 PM, Blogger jason evans said...

Words to live by, Carter.

And I do.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Carter said...

Thanks for the comment, jason. Living that way is well worth the effort.


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