Focal Point: Roads Less Traveled

Upon retirement, Tyler Morning Telegraph Editor Dave Berry took a fork in the road that led from word counts to work gloves restoring historic planes in the hangar of the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum. Here, he removes a fire-damaged fuel bladder from the fuselage of the museums Mig17 jet fighter. (Photo by M.J. Burnett)

“… I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere in 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.”

- Robert Frost

Life would indeed be a drag if we all stayed on the main road.

Sure, the interstates, toll roads, broadways and main streets can get you to your destination much quicker. But if you have the luxury of time to spare and a good dose of curiosity … I recommend the road less traveled.

I am not alone in loving Robert Frost’s 1916 poem, “The Road Not Taken.” And my definition of what it means is just one of many attached to the popular poem, which begins: “Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and sorry that I could not travel both.”

Some readers say Frost is making a case for rugged individualism, for not following the crowd, for escaping the busy world, for striking out into the unknown, for making choices, living with those choices and not looking back.

Others suggest Frost is toying with us, creating a bit of confusion while knowing there is little difference in the paths, that both are equally traveled and that it is unlikely the traveler will ever return to take the other.

I’m not a poetry scholar. I just like the feel of this one.

“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.”

I didn’t realize, until I did a Google search, how much disagreement there is over Frost’s meaning. Some scholars believe Frost’s “two roads” diverging in the wood represents a metaphor for the lifeline of every reader and for the many decisions we make as each of us navigates through life. I can buy that.

To me, I thought it was simpler: Choose a path, move ahead, enjoy the trail … then live with the decision you made without regret. And, if you made a bad choice, there will be another fork in the road soon that might take you nearer your dreams.

This isn’t really about deciding between good and evil or choosing to become a cop or a crook. It’s subtler than that. While there is little visible difference in the two paths, the traveler has no idea of their destinations. But choose he must. And since there are few do-overs in life, most of us must be content with correcting our course further down the trail.

Frost got me thinking about the paths I’ve taken … and it would take a lot more inches than I’m granted for this column to go down each one. But whether we’re talking about a road trip, a career choice, or marriage and family decisions … I have no regrets. Frost may be warning that many choices must be made when outcomes are unclear and destinations are unknown. The best you can do is pick a path and follow it as best you can.

Throughout my life, paths have diverged in the yellow wood, and I’ve found a way to move ahead optimistically on one or the other. It’s not like pulling onto the highway and following smooth roads to the end. It’s more like charting a path that winds and twists and turns. It’s about backing away from dead-ends, bouncing over a few potholes, grinding your way up steep grades, scaring yourself on narrow switchbacks, losing a tire occasionally and consulting the map from time to time.

But mostly, it’s about enjoying the ride.


Dave Berry is the retired editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph. His Focal Point column runs on the front of Wednesday’s My Generation section. Tell us about your “two roads” that diverged in the wood. Did your choice “make all the difference?”


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