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.
Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.
Yesterday I finished preparing our tax returns and as a reward to myself I decided to take a bike ride. Although the sky was overcast and threatening rain (which seems to be normal for this region of France), I had Bronwyn drop me off in a small town near Le Mans on the less traveled river Le Loir (which is a tributary of the more famous La Loire River). I had not planned out a detailed route, but I knew that Le Loir drained into the Sarthe River, which drained into the Maine River, which passed within 500 meters of our house so all I needed to do was follow the rivers downstream.
I was immediately confronted with a choice: I could take the tow path beside the river, or I could take the paved roads that paralleled the river. I took the path less traveled, and despite my love of Robert Frost's poem, as I pedaled through a cold rain, I spent a lot of time thinking that less traveled road is not always the best choice. It was muddy and slippery, and I nearly took a swim a couple of times on the narrow bridges over streams entering the river. In places, the river was out of its banks and covered the trail, which necessitated excursions through the bramble bushes. Until a rain shower washed most of the mud off of me, I was covered in mud. I certainly could have made better time on the paved roads. When I got home, I was cold, wet and sore.
However, after a good nights sleep, I think that maybe Robert Frost was right because I ended up seeing (through my mud splattered glasses) a lot of interesting villages, small chateaux and farms. The things that most French people consider ordinary are sometimes the most interesting things to me. For example, it is fascinating to me that most French orchards, unlike traditional American orchards, consist of small espaliered trees (which are trained to spread their branches like vines, making it easy to harvest the apples without machines).
Perhaps the bike trip and poem are metaphors for my time in France. Difficult at times, but in hindsight a great experience.