My recent thoughts have been on what is remembered and what is forgotten in the collective consciousness. Why do we remember specific events when those events, at the time, seemed ordinary and easily pushed to the recesses of memory? We are defined by moments that follow us wherever life takes us. We become a compilation of ideas, conversations, connections and remembrances. We create our personal narrative from these recollections.
I have come to see that aging is a remarkable process for it gives us the gift of retrospect. When we hear a familiar melody, smell the aroma of fresh bread, feel the smooth delicacy of a baby’s hand, or walk along a well travelled path, those long-ago moments flash across our mind. They become unmistakably transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary. In my experience, these profound moments usually present us with a decision point. And that brings me to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”
According to David Orr, poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken, “appears to exceed that of every other major twentieth-century American poem, including those often considered more central to the modern (and modernist) era.”
We remember this poem for we all have confronted “two roads diverged.” And yes, whatever path we chose or will choose becomes who we are in the present.
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
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
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
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.