Thanksgiving, our annual elaborate production as we gather family and friends to proclaim togetherness, is upon us. We remember ties to the past, celebrate milestones of today and anticipate hopes for the future. At my house, I always choose a poem to begin our feast and this Autumn, I am honoring Robert Frost’s classic poem, “The Road Not Taken.” With such confusion and anxiety these past long months, I am hoping for a brighter path to light our way. I think our best poets and writers do not provide us with answers, but provoke us to find our own truths. As we come together to give thanks and reminisce about the losses and the lessons of this past year, take to heart the admonition in this memorable poem.
“The Road Not Taken” was probably studied in middle school and in many cases has been misinterpreted. Those “two roads that diverged into a yellow wood,” mark a symbolic crossroads in all of our lives where two choices were presented to us and we chose one over the other. Perhaps we have regretted our choice, deluding ourselves that if only we had picked the other path (the grass is always greener on the other side), our life journey would have been better, happier or smoother. Ah, but that is to misread the lines. Frost says that the two roads were “worn…really about the same” and equally covered by leaves. Frost asserts that at moments of decision, we immediately regret the choice we made and rationalize that we should have persevered down the other way. When making critical decisions, we like to blame ourselves for the wrong choice. Instead, Frost reminds us that our choices are our own, determined by free will and to trust the path we have taken down the road of life. Both roads offer us a chance to explore the hidden crevices and unearth new revelations – each road ending in a different place, but one is neither worse nor better.
“The Road Not Taken” reminds us at Thanksgiving to praise individuality, to give thanks for the freedom to be who we are, to be gracious for all the choices we have in America, to cherish the many paths-to take a chance to stumble, to jump over wild streams, to gaze at beauty, to be cautious of danger, to fight through the brush, and step by step arrive at the end which has “made all the difference.” We are who are by the everyday choices we make.
May all the paths you encounter be a chance to travel “the first for another day” as life continues to wind down in ways unknown to us right now.