…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.
photo by Per Wolfisberg this morning from north-central Montana
Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled.
Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home.
But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out.
I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity.
~Robert Frost from “Selected Letters”
When a man thinks happily, he finds no foot-track in the field he traverses.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson from “Quotation and Originality”
Robert Frost enjoyed how readers misinterpreted his ironic “The Road Not Taken” poem. His point was not “the road less traveled” “made all the difference” but that the roads were in fact the same. As humans living our daily lives, we have to make decisions that take us one way or the other, not knowing and very uncertain where our choices may lead us.
Our assurance lies in understanding the Hand that guides us, should we allow Him. We may choose a path that leads us astray; God continually puts up signposts that will guide us home. Our journey may be arduous, we may get terribly lost, we may walk alone for long stretches, we may end up crushed and bleeding in the ditch.
He follows the footprints we have left behind, and we are found, rescued and brought home, no matter what, and that — not the road we chose at the beginning — is what makes all the difference.