“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”: that’s as far as I ever got with Frost’s best known — and most poorly understood — poem. Oh, sure, I finished reading the words, but my imagination never advanced beyond that initial image, which delighted me. To hell with the figurative meaning; the literal one was quite enough for me. I suppose I should be ashamed to admit that I often engage with poetry on such a superficial level, but you have to understand that we have several miles of old woods roads here on the mountain which seem much like the “roads” in “The Road Not Taken,” moss-covered, sometimes grassy, and ankle-deep in yellow (and orange and red) leaves this time of year, which whisper as you walk. And in any case, a yellow wood on a bright October day invites careless wandering. You can push regrets and fears of failure to the back of your mind for a while.
Archery season for white-tailed deer began last Saturday, so we do share the woods with a few hunters, who sit camouflaged in the trees, alert and focused on a single goal while we amble past, heedless as only an unhunted non-predator can be.
The yearly mulch is underway. I walk admiring the woods with a lazy gardener’s eye, willing myself to ignore multiple ecological wounds and see everything as if couldn’t be better arranged, as if each bush and tree were perfectly shaped and situated, as if every stone and clump of ferns stood in an aesthetically optimal relationship with its surroundings. It’s not a bad habit to get into, I think. The problem with the narrator of “The Road Not Taken” is that he’s too concerned about destinations. “Somewhere ages and ages hence,” he might think back on the choice he made, but what he’ll really miss, I’ll bet, is what he missed that day: the option to stay and revel in all that yellow.