Long I Stood

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood, And looked down one as far as I could…”

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
The Sound of Yellow Aspen
Santa Fe, NM October 2015

“You know, when it comes to poems meant to inspire us, I think The Road Not Taken is one of the most over used,” she told me. And yet, once again, I find myself drawn to it. Not for the last stanza where attention is usually focused. “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” No, I find myself stuck on the phrase “long I stood.” Most often we focus on the outcome not the process. The traveler stands at the crossroads deliberating for what they think is a long time before eventually lifting their foot off the ground and taking that first step.

For over forty years I stood in that yellow woods with another traveler. I seldom made grand decisions on my own. I was the one who would point out the differences, the possibilities, and the pitfalls of each decision. Dave would often listen without indicating that he was actually hearing what I was saying and then suddenly declare with confidence and finality which direction our path would take. Occasionally, I’d feel rather annoyed. Why did he get to have the ultimate say? At times I was really irked at him for getting the last word and at myself for ceding that power to him. I’d attribute it to the male/female thing, but in actuality it was the difference in our personalities and how we saw the world of choices and decision making. His world was black and white while mine was a blaze of color, glitter, and flashing lights. Together we found a satisfying balance as we chose our path beneath the banner of golden leaves.

Hidden Valley
Rocky Mountain National Park, September 2018

With his death I find that my life in many ways is off-kilter, off balance, and out of focus. Making decisions is one of the many ways this manifests itself. I keep exploring all the options, weighing the pros and cons, and considering all the angles, but there is no longer anyone there to announce that the deliberations are ended and a choice had been made. I miss Dave’s decisiveness. I feel myself on a constantly repeating loop like driving on a roundabout without ever finding the exit. I know it’s there and when I find it I’ll be able to move forward, hopefully in the right direction, but in the meantime, it’s nerve wracking and exhausting.

Frankly, I’m getting quite tired of standing at that tedious crossroads among those yellow trees. I’m also tired of the mosquitos, black flies, and thoughts that keep buzzing around my head with their constant drone of what if, what if, what if. As lovely as the woods are, I am beginning to yearn for a wider vista. Any day now…I’m going to brush the mud off my Keens, tighten the laces and…actually move.

“Did you ever have to make up your mind? And pick up on one and leave the other behind? It’s not often easy and not often kind. Did you ever have to make up your mind? Did you ever have to finally decide? And say yes to one and let the other one ride? There’s so many changes and tears you must hide. Did you ever have to finally decide?

The Lovin’ Spoonful, Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?https://youtu.be/CV9DMgVF-Nk

I’ll go left. I always go left. Decision made. Then the second guessing sets in. Oh Bummer! I want to join Jean-Luc Picard and “seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!” Then I think of the traffic, remember that I get motion sickness and begin to doubt whether or not I can read the map.

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, and irrational fear of the unknown. There is no such thing as the unknown. Only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” 

Captain, James T. Kirk, Starship USS Enterprise, The Corbomite Maneuver
View From the Porch

It’s puzzling to me that making decisions has become so difficult. Life itself is merely a continuous chain of decisions, but maybe some of my trepidation is recognizing that being a solo decision maker there is no one but myself to blame if I mess up.

People tell me to listen for Dave’s voice when making decisions. Unlike me, Dave didn’t generally share his opinions when he was alive, so I’m not expecting to hear his voice from the beyond anytime soon. I gradually learned over the years that he made decisions for all kinds of reasons. If you ever played cards with him you know exactly what I mean. Some of his decisions were well thought out, some were just based on a gut feeling and others were just made to shake things up, provide a laugh, or…well usually to provide a laugh. His decisions met with varying degrees of success. Perhaps that’s the message he’s sending. That it’s OK if I choose poorly, if I make a mistake, or if I should have painted the kitchen Wild Oat instead of Jewitt White. It’s all good and quoting a friend, “It’s probably not a pivotal moment in history.”

It’s true that “way leads on to way”. Any savvy shopper knows that if you find a pair of jeans that fits, buy them immediately. But Robert Frost lived in another time and was never privy to the dulcet tones of a disembodied voice instructing…”When possible make a safe and authorized u-turn.” It is possible to go around the block, dig yourself out of a hole, or simply choose again. The Merlot not so good? Next time select a Riesling.

Learning to make decisions on my own is difficult and it’s going to take some time, but I know with each choice I make I’ll grow more confident, positive, and comfortable. So, just for the practice…and since it’s chilled and open…I will choose the Riesling.

11 thoughts on “Long I Stood

  1. Beautiful, Sally. Thank you. Sue

    On Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 7:45 AM One Wild and Precious Life wrote:

    > sjdaab posted: ” “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could > not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood, And looked down one as > far as I could…”Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken The Sound of Yellow > AspenSanta Fe, NM October 2015 “You know, when ” >


  2. Very thoughtful reflections, dear Sally. I’ve often wished I had an app that would show what might happen if I followed each path. Or a life app where I could click ‘undo’. Or a kindly but honest grandma app that would say “good choice, smart girl”.


  3. You describe the place of uncertainty so beautifully Sally! It takes me back to the time after my divorce 3 years ago. I decided to try to let life show me which way to go, to not stress about it if I could help it, and to find a kinder, gentler way to live my life. It’s been a wonderful and, at times, terrifying journey. I fall into anxiety pretty regularly, and I often have no idea what I’m doing. Trying to make peace with that and love myself through it all. Charles wasn’t like Dave – he didn’t tend to make the big decisions for us, but his presence got in the way of my way. Being on my own left me with so many of the feelings you write about, and I think standing in that wood for as long as it takes is the only way to do it. I’m with you sister!!


  4. I love the soul searching that comes through your writing! The raw honesty is refreshing and worrying. I just don’t see you as you see yourself right now! You are strong and decisive in my mind. Thinking this is just a temporary place that you will not want to stay for very long! Hugs!


  5. Oh, please don’t worry. I think part of my challenge making decisions is just an extension of the grieving process. Losing a partner also means you lose a part of yourself. You’re not the same as you were before the loss. It just takes time to figure out how to navigate as the person you are now becoming. I’m still the one who explores all the options, all the possibilities, and all potential outcomes…just as before…but now…I am learning…slowly…to say deliberations are over, make a choice and allow it to play out. All will be well, and all will be well. All manner of things will be well. ❤


  6. Life is full of all kinds of winding roads, dead ends, congested highways, and never ending ride of your life roads. Embrass them all God is with you and will show you which left turn to take. I don’t believe Dave would want you to get bogged down in indecision.
    Make a choice if it’s wrong then you live and learn and move on to the next road, the next left turn.
    Think back to your Mom draw on her strength. She lived life. I think your doing amazing.
    Know I love you!


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