One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost (Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, 1874 – 1963). Everyone quotes “The Road Not Taken” and that seems a perfect metaphor for my upcoming Appalachian Trail journey. “Two roads diverge in the yellow wood….”
Except, I’ve always been drawn to “Into My Own” one of Frost’s early poems, written when he was a young man and published in a collection called A Boy’s Will. It’s not as well. known. The title of the book mystified me initially, but I think I understand it now.
The poem talks of a line of “dark trees” that are “So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze.”
I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.
I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.
They would not find me changed from him they knew—
Only more sure of all I thought was true.
(Italics are mine)
But I will be changed. Only in youth do you think that you will take on the world, conquer it and that life will not alter you. Only when you are very young do you think you have all the answers. The wise know better. You are forever changed by challenges. You get a different perspective, come across better information and discover new truths. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon the beliefs of your youth. But you just may find that it makes sense to do so.
And when you are very young with energy to spare, you may see everything as a battle. It’s like the old adage, if the only tool you know how to use is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Hiking is like that too. You don’t beat the mountains. You don’t conquer the trail. These will still stand when you are gone and forgotten. You put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Like life, it’s a journey. And you will not be the same, should not be the same, once you’ve finished.
I wonder what changes are in store for the next 2185 miles….