Fork in the Road

A fork in the road.

(I took this photo on a recent early morning trip to Sunrise at Mount Rainier)

Have you ever wondered what is meant by, or where that expression actually came from ? Wikipedia says: A fork in the road is a metaphor, based on a literal expression, for a deciding moment in life or history when a choice between presented options is required, and, once made, the choice cannot be reversed.

(I want to believe that we came to that fork in the road in our last election. “Snowflakes” we were called. Better that, than whatever the angry and unhappy alternative is. Is there even a name for that ?)

I see a “fork” now, in my own little world. It’s just a few steps ahead of me, and I know it means I am staring down a choice . Robert Frost mused upon this expression in his poem The Road Not Taken. A divergence of paths and an acknowledgement of what it means to consciously choose. 

The pandemic has been a game-changer in so many ways. I got to know myself differently this past year. If you had told me two years ago that I would be keeping time with the sun, I never would have believed you. In bed by sunset and up before dawn ? Preposterous. After retirement I had this fantasy about sleeping in and making art deep into the night. It never happened like that. Instead, I am up and driving at civil twilight to keep company at a refuge with wildlife, birds and new friends. 

I know where the owls hang out and I could show you abandoned nests in trees where I watched robins and bushtits, flycatchers and hummingbirds break open their protective shells and fledge. I have watched fish become herons, frogs become robins and starlings become weasels. I have watched with a growing curiosity, this world around me. 

I could do this walk in the dark. I know where the planks on the boardwalk are swollen and where I’m likely to slip on moss. I know where the swallow nests are, with all of their messiness, and I know how to gingerly step on the graded gravel road to avoid flushing the birds from bushes and trees. I can tell the difference between a Long- billed Dowitcher, a Wilson’s Snipe and a Virginia Rail. I’m learning to listen. More importantly, I’m learning to step lightly on this earth. 

That fork ? 

For me ? Well, it’s really about the stories I have stirring in me. Five years ago, I wanted to write a tell-all book about the post office. I wanted to expose what goes on inside the walls of that institution. I wanted to rail against the injustice, share stories that would shock and surprise you. Two years ago, I wanted to tell a different story. A story about the people. 

Today, all of my stories are converging with the revelations of this past year and a half. I know there’s a way to bring them together. I’m imagining a sturdy thread, strong and colorful. One that can stitch the past into the days unfolding before me. 

My fork ? 

One road reminds me that life is short and I need to keep making memories. The other reminds me that stories need an attentive narrator. Can I do both ? Can I have it all ?

In two and a half months, I will be joining a circle of writers that will help me discover yet another path. A way forward. The most important thing for me to do is to empty my mind of expectation. We will all likely be at different places in this process and there is no shame in being at the beginning. In fact, that seems the perfect place for me to be as I ask for help. 

I am embarrassed to say how often I have the luxury of “time without responsibility” only to squander it. I can feel myself straining to write something clever or interesting and I drift further from what I want to actually say. On those days I delete as much as I keep. It’s a sad case of trying too hard. I should probably operate on the premise that you want what I want: something honest and genuine. 

I listen to a lot of books these days. It helps me understand what it means to have “a voice” in written word. I especially love most anything read by the author. The pauses, the inflection, the emotion all spills out exactly as it did in the mind before the pen got hold of it. Memoir is especially meaningful for me in this way. It feels like an intimate exchange of truth. While the circumstances may be wildly different, the feelings they provoke are universal. 

I’m away for a few days. I’m on a deck with a gorgeous view and a slight breeze to cut the deepening heat. I hear the birds, though only the little Red-breasted Nuthatches are brave enough to visit the feeders (recently) filled with seed. One especially noisy Stellars Jay will not leave me alone. There is one Anna’s Hummingbird trying to muster up courage to fly past me, but it’s not quite sure of me yet. Yesterday I discovered the owl I have heard here many times before. I suppose it really wasn’t my discovery at all, but rather, the crows wildly opposed to the Barred Owl’s chosen perch. They led me right to him. That, my friends, is my purest joy. 

The haze has taken over the afternoon and snuffed out some of the heat. It still feels like New Orleans. You know … sultry. I’ve raided the garden for blueberries, strawberries and three lone pea pods. I’ve tried to do my part to keep the daisies in the garden alive but the deer have other ideas. The cat and I are just chilling out. No forks required. These are the lazy days of summer. 

12 Comments on “Fork in the Road

  1. This entire post resonates with me. Your writing got right through and I love being able to feel what you are describing. The photos are so good, as usual. That owl – what a face, ha ha. It was a kindness of crows. Funny, I have fantasized about writing two novels for about twenty years, and ONE of them is an idea I have of writing about a post office. Isn’t that a coincidence? Though I was a federal employee for 30 years, I know diddly about the post office. I need to give you my story idea and let you treat it right. I am so envious that you are following through with a writing group. I find it so hard to give up all the other niggling tasks and dedicate real time to my writing and to my painting. “At least you are blogging…” I tell myself, which you also do to keep up your writing skills. And the fork in the road – too funny, your joke. My road has so many forks. Retirement is still confusing for me. I’m new at it, and still don’t know what I’m doing or want to do or should do. But I’m certainly not sitting around. Like you, I assumed there would be so much time to read a book on the deck, but two years later that hasn’t happened yet. Rather, I listen to audio books also, while I’m scuttling around, preparing for the next adventure, or cleaning the house finally because someone is coming over and I must present less dust and disarray. I don’t usually like memoirs, but just finished one that touched me deeply. From Scratch by Tembi Locke, and the author reads her own book. She talks about losing her husband to cancer, and facing parenthood alone, but all in the succulent environment of Sicily, and somehow getting into the hearts and souls of her husband’s reluctant family, who struggle with memories of island invasions (stranger danger), not to mention racism (Tembi is a Black American). Her husband was a cook, and he and his Sicilian mother communicate through their food, so every new chapter is a new exploration of Sicilian cooking. The book was wonderful.

  2. Oh yes, much of what drives me also haunts me. Isn’t that usually the way ? I am doing all I can to let go of all but the present. It sounds so simple. Just breathe. Just count. Let the thoughts move along. Before I know it, it really IS just that easy. Thanks for being here ♡ And thank you for the reminders. Abundance is everywhere !

  3. The running narrative that drives you (haunts you???) is always going to bend toward what you are breathing and living right now… that is always where the juice is freshest. So stay present when you are at the writing retreat, dont bring baggage and expectations that will stifle and strangle you. STAY PRESENT. The people you find. The vibe you feel comfortable exploring. Follow always, what FEEDS you. Don’t look for or settle for scraps. Look for ABUNDANCE and follow that path. That is where your stories will find you…*

  4. Oh my gosh, this is so great. The fork made me laugh out loud. I love how you have become one with Nisqually. I surely do hope SAS happens for you this go-round. Fingers all crossed. Thank you for the picture of sweet Lena! I hope there are still blueberries when I get home. I am happy to be with family when school is out of session for a change, but there is a reason I usually come in October when the garden and the mountains are done with me!

    • Thank you. I’m waiting for the sun to break through the fog (it is heavy) and hanging with this sweet girl this morning (She misses you. I’m guessing morning is a special time together). Lots of berries still in the garden. Trying to practice writing what I see and how it feels. It’s really an oasis here and if I fail to connect, it is a failure only of imagination. 

  5. Such a lovely weaving of it all, past, present, future, and the fork that we follow blindly, nervously, trusting. So glad to be along on this journey, even from afar. I’d love to hear more about your writing group!

    • Grateful for your company. The writing workshop is that thing I “follow nervously” trusting instead that all will be well. I’ll msg you about the workshop.

  6. Your writing and insights leave an impact. “Fork in the Road”, in particular. Thanks for sharing with us your thoughts.

  7. Eyes have been opened this past year and a half; hopefully more will see how our actions impact one another and choose the greater good. Yes, a fork in the road indeed.

    • There is always room for hope that we will recognize the path of greater good when we are standing before it. Thanks for reading ❤

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