a trail through the forest

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, 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 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.

“The Road Not Taken” by Frost is usually considered in the context of choosing an unknown path, of one less (though not so very much less) traveled, of the other a little bit more traveled, and taking the risk. But go with me down either of these roads in the wood. The one bends in the undergrowth, and thus remains unseen, hidden, unknown. The other, the one I take, is grassy, but still unknown, untrodden, unblackened by footfalls.

Unseen. Unknown. Untested.

The roads through the wood aren’t paved. They’re not lit. They’re not mapped. Unmarked. Uncharted.

Up until this point in the journey, there were some indications as to where I was to go. I needed to reach this intersection, and I followed carefully, dutifully, doggedly, even quite often enough, happily. The purpose was to reach this intersection. And there was no need to determine which way to go, since it was such a long way to the actual intersection.

What Frost doesn’t tell us here is that once one takes a road, there is no end to the choosing. One cannot go back. And having passed deeply enough into the wood, into the dark wood, one finds another intersection. And it, too, is unmarked; and it, too, is unpaved; and it, too, is untested. The path is narrow, rocky, overgrown, maybe blocked in places by fallen trees, under which you’ll have to scramble, or over which you’ll have to climb. But there is never any going back. Forward is the only option.

And just past that huge treefall, there’s another divergence. Left? Right? The sun is hidden behind the thick canopy of leaves overhead. The wind moans through the creaking branches. The leaves rustle violently. Unknown sounds filter through the wood. Where does this path go? How big is the wood? Is this the right direction? How will I know? What if I’m on the wrong path—is there some cross path that will enable me to get back on the right track?

Questions never cease, just as the journey cannot. You can’t stand still. You must move forward.

I am in the middle of this wood, somewhere unknown. I am on a path. I’ve reached the intersection I knew I was to reach. But no signs, no clues, no indicators have been given to assist me in which fork I should follow. And the sky is growing darker. The moon, fortunately, is full and bright, but it still gives me less aid in direction than the tree-blocked sun.

“Forward,’ is all I know. And my hoped-for destination colors my imagination. But I have no way of knowing which of these paths—or whether any of them—takes me to that goal.

And so I take the road that seems best to me, in my ignorance. In my hope.


2 thoughts on “a trail through the forest

  1. bridgeout

    I don’t have any magic words of wisdom… I just wanted to say I read this… and my thoughts are with you on this journey. May forward indeed be all we know.

  2. Beloved

    Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
    Look full in His wonderful face,
    And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
    In the light of His glory and grace.

    His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

    Words by Hel­en H. Lem­mel


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