Tell me, where is the road I can call my own, That I left, that I lost So long ago? All these years I have wandered, Oh when will I know There’s a way, there’s a road That will lead me home?
After wind, after rain, When the dark is done, As I wake from a dream In the gold of day, Through the air there’s a calling From far away, There’s a voice I can hear That will lead me home.
Rise up, follow me, Come away, is the call, With the love in your heart As the only song; There is no such beauty As where you belong; Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home. ~Stephen Paulus “The Road Home”
we who are wanderers–
who take wrong turns never ask for directions stumble over the rough roads find ourselves in the ditch get distracted by sightseeing and forget our ultimate destination
we are ready to heed the call that leads us home
nothing we’ve seen thus far no song we’ve heard no goal achieved compares to the beauty that awaits us
He sometimes felt that he had missed his life By being far too busy looking for it. Searching the distance, he often turned to find That he had passed some milestone unaware…
The path grew easier with each passing day, Since it was worn and mostly sloped downhill. The road ahead seemed hazy in the gloom. Where was it he had meant to go, and with whom? ~Dana Gioia from “The Road” from 99 Poems: New and Selected
The Road goes ever on and on Out from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone. Let others follow, if they can! Let them a journey new begin. But I at last with weary feet Will turn towards the lighted inn, My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
Still ’round the corner there may wait A new road or secret gate; And though I oft have passed them by, A day will come at last when I Shall take the hidden paths that run West of the Moon, East of the Sun. ~J.R.R Tolkien from “Roads Go Ever On”
Like many others, I have experienced the disconcerting feeling of traveling a familiar route with my mind completely disengaged. Suddenly I find myself at my destination without a conscious realization of how I even got there or what I saw along the way. Or maybe I was doing a routine daily task and later couldn’t remember having done it (did I shut off the barn faucet or are the water barrels flooding over all day?) because my head was somewhere else.
We describe this as “auto-pilot” or “body memory” or more distressingly “dissociation” — most therapists prescribe “mindfulness” to reengage us in our daily lives and thoughts. I’m not sure it is mindfulness that I practice, but I do force regular “brain check-ins” to anchor me to a time and place and task. (“yes, I have just passed that intersection where that truck and trailer almost hit me years ago and I am grateful to still be alive” or “I am now shutting off the barn faucet and won’t have to think about it again until tomorrow, thank you very much!”)
I regret “missing out” on experiencing my journey because I was so busy scanning the horizon for what is to come or looking back at where I’ve been, or watching where my feet will land or thinking about anywhere but where I was in the moment.
I need to acknowledge the milestones and not pass them by unawares — stopping at the view points, reading the historical markers, taking a breather at the rest stops. I seek to find the hidden paths and explore them rather than be solely destination-driven.
I must pay attention to who is alongside me and be ready to steady them if they trip or stumble, and pray they’ll catch me if I start to fall.
And most importantly, may I stay pointed toward the lighted inn that is awaiting all of us.
It was one of those days when the sun poured gold into the air, and flecks of light floated in shafts that fell through the branches of yellow leaf and green.
We’d had dinner at a place on the edge of a lake, and now we were going back to town. There was a simple way to get there, but she didn’t take it. Instead, we
drove the country roads with the corn rows flicking by, each one visible for a half second, then gone. “Hello, hello, hello,” they said, then “Good-bye, bye, bye, bye.”
The soybeans, we agreed, had turned burgundy overnight, but it was the cornfields we watched, as if we were waiting for the waters to open, as if we might cross over Jordan. ~Joyce Sutphen “Country Roads” from After Words
Traveling the country roads around here can feel a bit like seeking the entrance to the promised land: we can see it, just over there, glowing with so much potential. We haven’t quite found the way, it flicks by so quickly. It’s not yet our time, so we tread hungrily on the outskirts almost tasting the promise and waiting for the invitation to come.
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… ~Robert Frost (1916) from “The Road Not Taken”
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 (1911) from “Selected Letters”
Way leads on to way: I am far enough down the road that I don’t recall all the options I have faced over the years of my journey. I know there were times I ran into an impossible sticky thicket, so had to double back and try a different route. Maybe I have learned since to choose more carefully.
I don’t believe in coincidence and I don’t believe our choices are randomly made. I believe I am shepherded in the direction I am meant to go. The issue is whether I listen or whether I bolt the opposite way, come what may.
Night is drawing nigh. How long the road is. But, for all the time the journey has taken, how you have needed every second of it. ~Dag Hammarskjöld
It is easy to be grateful for the pretty times of life: those picture-perfect moments that end up on Christmas photo-cards and in detailed descriptions in holiday newsletters. What we want others to see and what we wish to remember does not always reflect the experiences of the whole journey. We are naturally programmed to concentrate on “The Best of…” rather than surveying the whole shebang, warts and all.
It isn’t all glorious sunsets, rainbows and happy endings. We don’t usually take pictures of the potholes, or celebrate the obstacles and flat tires along the way. It is rare to acknowledge and honor the failing grade, the chronic illness, the rocky relationship, the mortifying mistake, the tragic accident.
Yet it is all a part of the journey, every second of it, even the moments we try hard to forget are worthy of our appreciation. Even the difficult times move us a little closer to our destination, perhaps looking bruised and scraped, still making our way slowly, shakily yet surely.
into the coppery halls of beech and intricate oak to be close to the trees as they whisper together let fall their leaves, and we die for the winter ~Katherine Towers “Whim Wood” from The Remedies
Lord: it’s time. The summer was magnificent. Lay your shadows upon the sun-dials and o’er the isles allow your winds to vent.
Command the final fruits to be full and fine; give them two more days in the southern sun, push them to completion and then run the last sweetness through the heavy wine.
He who now has no house, will build one never. He who is alone, will long so remain, will awaken, read, lengthy letters pen and in the lanes will forever restlessly wander, when the leaves are driven. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn Day”
I’m drawn to pathways that lead to an unseen destination ahead.
Perhaps the endpoint is out of sight round a curve, or over a rise, or it is too far distant for my eyes to find.
I’m called to journey forth, even when staying put seems easier. There is a restlessness to these days, to these wanderings, as I keep looking behind to see where I’ve been.
Lord, help me find my way. Lord, it is time I find my way.
We can spend those minutes in meanness, exclusivity, and self-righteous disparagement of those who are different from us, or we can spend them consciously embracing every glowing soul who wanders within our reach – those who, without our caring, would find the vibrant, exhilarating path of life just another sad and forsaken road. ~Alice Walker from Anything We Love Can Be Saved
During these summer weeks of orientation of new college students and their parents, I speak to several thousand people, all looking nervous in unfamiliar territory among strangers.
They are about to embark on a road that rises to meet them and leads them to parts unknown.
I try to say, as I shake each hand, and give out my card with my personal phone number:
this too will be okay. This too will bless you. Even when there are potholes, uneven surfaces and times when you want to turn back to more familiar territory, you will find the road to your next destination fulfilling and welcoming.