Following the Path



Each day and night fly by more swiftly than the previous.  It is as if minutes are exponentially more compressed than in the past, hurtling forward to an inevitable destination, but the estimated time of arrival is unknown. I struggle in middle age to keep perspective while traveling this road of life, looking back at where I’ve been, and hoping for the best about where I’m headed, and trying to stick to the path without deviation.  My regret about this journey is that I haven’t stopped nearly often enough to simply take in the scenery, listen to the birds, smell the orchard blossoms, and feel the grass under my bare feet.

In other words, I’m getting really rusty at doing nothing and as a result, end up doing nothing well. It is the conundrum of following the cow path laid down before me (see Sam Foss’ poem below).

Nevertheless, as with all cow paths, there may have been no greater reason for the bend or curve than a patch of tall appealing grass at one time, or a good itching spot on a tree trunk.  My path may now appear more random without focus on the destination;  I need to stop once in awhile, settle down for a really good nap, enjoy a particularly fine meal, read an insightful book, or play a lovely hymn.  It is not just the path traveled but the quality of journey we experience, which frankly has little to do with “getting there”.

I enjoy the twists and turns of life, if I take the time to appreciate them.  Perhaps I’ll add a few of my own for those who follow after me.


One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should,
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer, the calf is dead;
But still behind he left his trail,
And thereon hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way,
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
Sliding into a rut now deep,
Pursued that trail over hill and glade
Thru those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
Because “twas such a crooked path”
But still they follow-do not laugh-
The first migrations of that calf.

The forest became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The village road became a street,
And this, before the men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.

And soon a central street was this
In a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Followed the wanderings of this calf.

Each day a hundred thousand strong
Followed this zigzag calf along;
And over his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one poor calf, three centuries dead.
For just such reverence is lent
To well established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach.

For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.

by Samuel Walter Foss 1895



2 thoughts on “Following the Path

  1. Your reminders about the busyness of the time-driven lives that most of us live today are a little sobering – certainly enough to encourage us to pause and slow down on our self-imposed treadmills. We need desperately to consider (if only we would take the time to think about that – no pun intended) what we are missing, what is really important — how many second chances we may be given (or not). I think that one of the most damaging aspects of our culture today is that we have become slaves by allowing other people and their ideas to determine our priorities instead of taking quiet time to ‘take in the scenery,’ as you so wisely pointed out, Emily.

    I have been retired for 19 years and am busier now than when I was working and had family responsibilities and was heavily involved in parish ministry. But all of this current activity does not bring me inner peace — the kind that leads to self knowledge and awareness of the Godhead within, and appreciation for the beautiful Creation that God so lovingly provided us eons ago.

    I have a ‘quotation’ resource file that I refer to occasionally when I need additional inspiration in putting an idea into words. In addition to Robert Frost’s entire poem, The Road Not Taken, here are two quotes that seem to be germane to today’s thoughtful posting:

    – In seed time, learn; in harvest, teach; in winter, enjoy (William Blake, Proverbs of Hell).
    – The bad news is time flies; the good news is you’re the pilot (Michael Altshuler, contemporary


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