Yep, today is my birthday. I’ve hit the big six-oh. That’s a pretty significant accomplishment for a guy who seems to have spent much of his time trying to cram as many missteps and misadventures as possible into a misspent life.
OK, that’s not entirely true, but it probably doesn’t miss by much.
I’ve thought of a few different ways to present this post about my life thus far and my progress toward the geriatric ward.
I pondered referencing Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and marching to the beat of a different drummer, but I’ve squeezed that theme into a few posts already and, well, it is the name of the blog. I feel I should do something a little different to jumpstart my seventh decade.
Then it occurred to me that I could fall back on Robert Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken,” that well known ode to a man going against the flow, running counter to the herd, and choosing to do things differently than everyone else. In so doing he achieved his own definition of success and finished off by telling everyone, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”
Yep, that describes me pretty well. Well, except for the success part.
It would have still been great except for one thing; I reread the poem.
It turns out that the famous rhyme is not about doing things differently at all. Nope. It’s about a man who comes to a fork in the road and can’t make up his mind which way to go. He takes one path, meaning to go back another day and hike the other. Eventually he says he took the wrong one anyway.
Don’t believe me?
After rereading the poem, my curiosity was piqued. I did some research and found an interview with Frost wherein he said almost exactly what I claimed above. He said he intended the poem as a light-hearted dig at his friend, writer Edward Thomas, who often joined Frost on walks through the New England countryside. Mr. Frost said that his friend was, “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other”.
In other words, the sigh in the first line of the final stanza, often taken to indicate self-satisfaction, is actually one of regret.
I have to admit, I was amused when I realized that Robert Frost wrote a poem to comment about indecision and people finding meaning in inconsequential decisions…and people ever since have been finding deeper meaning in the poem he meant to be inconsequential.
I guess the joke’s on us.
Wait a minute. Is that the same fate my blog will suffer? Will people ascribe more meaning to this blog than I intend?
I’m OK with that. After all, I turn 60 today; I may not have a lot of deep thoughts left.
Then it occurs to me that a lot of people won’t agree with what I said about Robert Frost and his poem. I figure many will just count me wrong and won’t bother to do the research to find out if I made up the interview or if it was true.
If so, that puts me in the minority. I stand as one of the few people who want to know the truth and doesn’t blindly follow what others say, like lemmings following their leaders over a cliff to die en masse.
Want more proof?
Most people believe the old story about lemmings committing mass suicide because somebody somewhere, perhaps even a teacher, told them it was true.
The myth actually started as something people came up with to explain the cyclical boom and bust of the rodent population. They noticed that some years there were lemmings ev-er-y-where and then, suddenly, there were few.
In a phenomenon wildlife biologists call mass dispersal the little critters can sometimes be seen moving, herd-like, in large groups. Some do die by drowning while trying to cross water, but many more disappear into the hungry maws of coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…or simply find new homes.
“Oh no,” some will say, “I saw lemmings jumping off a cliff in a documentary.”
That film was “White Wilderness” and was produced by Walt Disney’s company back in 1958. The scene showing the ill-fated rodents was filmed in Alberta, Canada using lemmings imported from Manitoba, and FORCED to commit the act. In other words, they FAKED it because they couldn’t film a phenomenon that did not actually exist.
Don’t get upset. I’m not pointing those things out to make you feel gullible. After all, where would we be if everyone questioned everything they were told? Even I don’t question everything, but I do question enough that I can truthfully say that I march to the beat of a different drummer.
Oh, wait, wait, wait! I said I wasn’t going to reference Thoreau. Better yet, I can quote Frank Sinatra. Old Blue Eyes said, “…but more, much more than this, I did it MY WAY!”
Oh yeah, Frank Sinatra and me…two of a kind.
Well, except for the whole “rich, good looking, and famous” part.
Hmmm, I guess that really does make me ONE of a kind!
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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.
(above) Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”
(below) The true meaning of Frost’s most famous poem.
(above) The famous faked lemming scene from Walt Disney’s “White Wilderness”.
(below) Frank Sinatra sings, “My Way.”