The Island had two sets of roads.
Travelling the paved and well-worn dirt roads led me to believe that these were the main roads, destined to be, simply because of how often people traversed their wandering curves.
What I didn’t realize however, was that there was an entire system of roads the trees grew over and into, making a once visible route a mere phantom of the life once spread across and through certain places on Manitoulin Island. It was as if an entirely different town surrounded us, one that only a native of the island could tell us about (which left me thankful that we had just that).
I was always intrigued by stories involving secret passageways and hidden treasure troves, so naturally I perked up when Pop was telling us about a few old roads and where they led, throwing in a few stories about what life was like around them.
Typically I don’t find infrastructure so riveting a subject, but seeing roads end in a wall of trees was enough to rapturously engage my normally wandering attention span.
I made a mental note to see if anyone wanted to explore some of them with me on a future trip.
Few things call me by name, but those ghost roads beckoned me like an old friend calling to chat about a new exciting project they were working on. I knew better than to even think about venturing out on them alone, but my imagination at least, found fodder for several hours, dreaming up story ideas that would’ve made C.S. Lewis and Tolkien proud.
My mind lifted me up on an aerial tour of the area nearby, seeing the roads slicing quietly through the landscape, then seeing faint outlines of roads that disappeared within a generation. Then it took me on a breathtaking tour of the metaphors we have for those roads at the core of our being.
Robert Frost got stuck in my mind and wouldn’t quit, nor quiet down; like a rolling and rumbling hunger pang, I savored the sweetness of his words dancing through my mind…
The Roads Not Taken
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;
I spent a day contemplating “the one less travelled” while on the water, rocking back and forth with the waves while on the boat as the others were fishing. The breeze was leaving ripples on the surface of the water and making the waves in my hair more pronounced, escaping the elastic I hoped would contain them. There is an uncertainty that held me firmly in the desperation of believing the shadows cast by sunlight and tall trees contained something to fear.
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,
Creating monsters and demons, I swore the less travelled road in me was the result of very real reasons that had to do with everything but me. The reality was far less exciting, I realized while somewhere out on the lake. The reasons, were of my own making and the more I believed in them, the less I believed in my ability to do, make, be and feel what I longed for.
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 took the well travelled roads to avoid the devils that fear led me to believe were waiting for me in the fields of the unknown. The questions soon filled my mind, “What if I took them? What if the things I feared the most consumed me alive? What then?” Twin flames, these questioned burned within me, roads unto themselves and I knew I would be seeing more of the ones I took far less.
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.
The shelter I made of worry and fear kept me looking back, cursing myself under my breath and swearing it had to do with some force other than the ones powering my own two hands. I lamented opportunities missed and rather than simply change direction, learning a new route or exploring my way through, I made an enemy of the truth: I had it in me all along and the only way to take flight was by leaping into the unknown sometimes; It wouldn’t kill me, hurt me or leave me black and blue…only I had that power.
By no fault of the road I found myself mired in occasional disappointment and frustrated desire, nor by fault of my own did I make it here because fault implies an awareness of what you’re doing, which I never possessed.
And there I sat in the car, driving by that road seemingly leading to a nowhere I wanted to explore, realizing that I hardly saw myself with the same sense of wonder.
And there I realized that it was time to see myself as a mountain whose peak would never let me down, as a picture whose subject made me exclaim with the purest of joy and right then I realized that the “one less traveled by” was a beautiful path within me that I was waiting for others to discover, rather than find it on my own.
It scares me to create and put an extension of myself into the world in photograph, poem, article, song or vision and I let it immobilize me to the point of keeping myself hidden. While on vacation though, I realized that the more I hide, the more I simply drive by those roads unknown and think about them, when it’s so much more in my nature to climb over fences and barricades to get to their heart.
The passengers in the car granted me some silence and peace, knowing nothing of the gifts the Island and their solitude was providing.
In the quiet I heard the call of the roads less travelled in me.
And since I’ve gotten back, they have made all the difference.
On The Wings of Miracles,