There are a dozen or so houses that I carry around in my head. Most of them are houses that at one time in my life I visited with the idea of buying them. Some are places I actually lived but moved away from, one is my grandmother's old homestead, and a few I've only visited in my dreams.
But all of them are real to me and all of them are more than just a structure sitting on a certain square feet of land. Each represents a road not taken and the thought of them brings to mind a detailed and entire life I might have lived if I had chosen that path instead of the one I'm on.
For example, there's a house about four blocks from where we currently live that the realtor took me to when we came here long ago. It was really just a shell of a house - it needed new flooring, new windows, new wiring, new plumbing, new everything. But it was in a prime location and came with four acres of bottom land that wasn't "valuable" because it was flood zone and couldn't be built on. When we moved here, I was leaving a budding nursery business behind and it would have been the perfect spot to grow a new and permanent nursery business here. Because I didn't think at the time that our family was up to the challenges that came with the actual house, and because I was discouraged from considering it by a few people, I passed that road by and in my mind, I also passed up a key juncture where I could have chosen my future as "plant lady".
Another house that has stuck with me all these years was an abandoned house high in the mountains above San Diego. It was in worst shape, if that was possible, than the first house I described, but it came with substantial acreage and a private view that went on forever. I remember it had rooms that unfolded one into another, like a domino game. It had a Japanese style garden gate that needed paint and oil but which the wind sang beautifully in as it passed through. I actually got as far as having the realtor write up an offer on this house. I literally backed out with my pen poised above the contract, a sudden certainty that it was the wrong thing to do. A few days later Hubby got the transfer back to northern California that we had been told was impossible. Still, with not choosing this house, I saw myself walking away
from the path that led to me building a retreat center that would have nourished me, my family, and many other people.
I know that if I had truly chosen these locations, my life may have unfolded in completely different ways than I have imagined them. I know this. But it doesn't really matter, it's my way to organize and remember all the choices in my life and where and when I made them.
A huge undercurrent in my life now is the decision we'll be making in the next few years where to move when and once William is off to college and launched, and Hubby retires. My family calls to me in several different directions, hubby's needs factor in, and my own goals (if I can ever chose amongst that maze of directions!) put in their two cents.
Deep down at a level that doesn't have a reason, I know what path I want to take. My heart tells me where I should be, knock on wood, things work out to allow it. I have an imagined life already plotted out for this particular scenario. And yet, at the same time, I know I truly don't know what that path will bring. Life is too unpredictable. There are too many places where you can't see beyond the hill or around the curve, or past the thick trees, to know what will come next. And isn't it better that way, really? What fun would it be if we didn't have some delights and challenges to make the journey worth traveling.
Still, it doesn't keep me from wondering and worrying each time I come to a crossroads. Which path? Right or left? An intriguing direction might peter out into thicket of impassable tangles. A beautiful looking beginning might end up becoming a long, boring valley. And yet what each path says to us at that point, paused between two directions, is all we have to help us decide because, as Frost so eloquently reminds us - "
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,I doubted if I should ever come back."
No matter how much we weigh the pros and cons, ponder the possibilities, at the end it all comes down to the stillness of that last moment when we listen to the whispers in our heart and taking the very next step, make our choice.
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.