“The Road Not Taken”

                        – 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.         

                   I came across this poem on a blog I regularly read and was again completely impressed by the universe’s power to send a message at exactly the right point in time.  Not that this poem is a new message for me — I have read and re-read this poem countless times since being introduced to it in grade school — but very often I need to be beat over the head with an idea repeatedly before an “oooohhhhh” moment kicks in. 

                   I think this poem is regularly abused.  I like to picture Robert Frost groaning with his head in his hands when people use his poem and message to justify making some irresponsible decision or to avoid doing something unpleasant or burdensome.  Not that I am completely innocent of mangling this poem’s message at convenient points in my life (I mean really, isn’t it a less traveled road to study for the Bar exam by the pool with the assistance of a margarita?)  But right now, I am struggling with an important decision, one that will affect not only my life, but the lives of those around me and two lives that are still waiting to begin.  Perhaps I am dramatizing the momentousness of this decision, but this is what it feels like sitting on my shoulders at this moment. 

                  So while I hesitate to sound cliché by invoking Frost’s wisdom, I really do find myself struggling with the idea of the “road less traveled.”  After all, if you read the poem closely, it’s not like there was a signpost that indicated the “less traveled” road.  In fact, he says that the road was “just as fair” as the other and that they were worn “really about the same.”  So for all my waxing poetic about taking that less travelled road so that my life will be fantastic, how the hell do you know which is the road less travelled?

                   But wait — Frost doesn’t say that taking the less travelled road will make your life fantastic in every way.  All he says is that taking that less travelled road has made all the difference in the life that he chose to lead.  Either path I choose at this cross-roads has good and bad that comes with it;  both are “just as fair” in many ways.  What I think Frost was saying is that you have to choose  a path with your heart, and not by contemplating how others will perceive you or how you will nicely fit into the social structure.  You also cannot choose this path by attempting to predict what lies around the bend because this will always fail.  I am a huge believer in intuition.  If you are very honest with yourself and genuinely listen to what your innermost voice is whispering to you,  you will choose the road less travelled because it is your path and yours alone.


Fourteen Weeks

                      I feel somewhat guilty.  I have been neglecting my blog.  And for almost seven weeks!  But this time, I feel like I have a pretty good excuse — being very pregnant with twins!  After a long period of waiting, hoping, ups and downs, crossed-fingers, prayers and tears, my husband and I have been extraordinarily blessed with the two tiny lives that are now growing inside me.  Words cannot begin to express what we felt when we saw the first grainy images of not one, but two little black and white blobs shimmer and then come into focus on that ultrasound screen.  I didn’t know it was possible to feel that surge of love and protection for two beings that only recently came into existence and whom I have never even met.  I walked, no floated, out of the doctor’s office on cloud nine, or quite possibly cloud ten or eleven.  I spent the drive back to work dreamily contemplating the rest of my pregnancy.  I am pretty sure that day-dream involved me looking pleasingly rotund,  postively glowing with the aura of pregnancy, walking through a sun-shiney meadow of some sort in a mother-earthy dress and bare feet.  There might even have been some Disney-esque cartoon birds landing on my fingers and singing the joys of pregnancy.
                      Fast- forward four weeks — when instead of being rotund and glowing in a meadow, I am instead perched precariously over the toilet, dry-heaving and convinced that Walgreens has certainly given me sweet-tarts in place of the anti-nausea pills I pop religiously.  Friends have assured me that this passes after the first trimester, that at thirteen weeks a magical switch is flipped and I will no longer want to do nothing but sleep until I am forced to get up to pee or barf.  All I can say is that I am now two days away from my fourteenth week and my damn switch must be broken.    
                      Please don’t get me wrong.  I am still so happy every day when I think about the two little ones inside me, and I get misty eyed any time I see a father playing with his kids and add Dad to the list of wonderful things that my husband is.  But right now, I just want someone to fix my switch. 

“After a Long Insomniac Night”

– Edward Hirsch

I walked down to the sea in the early morning

after a long insomniac night.

I climbed over the giant gull-colored rocks

and moved past the trees,

tall dancers stretching their limbs

and warming up in the blue light.

I entered the salty water, a penitent

whose body was stained,

and swam toward a red star rising

in the east — regal, purple-robed.

One shore disappeared behind me

and another beckoned.

I confess

that I forgot the person I had been

as easily as the clouds drifting overhead.

My hands parted the water.

The wind pressed at my back, wings

and my soul floated over the whitecapped waves.

In Bloom

“And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom.”

– Anaïs Nin

Soul Food

I had a surgical procedure this past Monday, and took the entire week off from work to recuperate.  Which means, of course, that by Tuesday afternoon, I was completely bored out of my gourd.  I was only able to be a dutiful patient until Wednesday at noon, when I met a friend for lunch,  then later drove to get frozen yogurt, and even later, met my husband for dinner.  While these outings did somewhat alleviate my “stir-craziness,”  I spent the rest of the night hugging a heating pad and re-acquainting myself with my friend Vicodin.

But Thursday — Thursday was a completely different day altogether! Thanks to the Vicodin, I awoke to find a day of possibility!  I did force myself to stay on the couch until noon, but here is the problem with daytime television:  it makes me think I can do things,  all kinds of things in fact.  For example, after watching a reality show about a bridal salon, I can totally picture myself opening one — I mean, how hard could it be?  Then I watched a woman construct a $1,300 birthday cake for a three-year-old’s party.  Awesome!  I could totally do that… just a quick run to Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods for the appropriate tools, and I’m in business.  (In this respect, I am incredibly fortunate to have an extremely practical and level-headed husband).  But the channel that finally did me in was of course the Food Network.  By noon on Thursday, I had come up with the brilliant idea that I wanted, no needed, to cook clams for my husband.  This was in part because it was infinitely more practical than opening a bridal salon, and also because he had been very stressed at work (not to mention that he survived with commendable grace the hormone tsunami that ravaged our house the week prior…).

And what better way, really, to recover from surgery than to teach yourself how to cook clams?

Being from Long Island, New York, my husband is in love with seafood — especially things with shells.  Crabs, Lobsters, Mussels, Clams, you name it.  If it has a shell, he’s drooling over it in the pages of Bon Apetit or Food and Wine Magazine the way some men drool over Hustler.  My experience in cooking anything with a shell is limited to staring at them in the case at Whole Foods, a little freaked out that they are still alive in the ice,  and imagining whether you can hear a tiny clam scream as they are thrown into the pot.  In my head, it’s something like a high-pitched “eeeeeeeeeeeee!”  (My husband assures me this is not the case).

I also decided to make Gruyere Gougeres, a French recipe for a savory sort of cheese puff pastry/roll.  Baking I can do, so if the clams were terrible, at least we could gorge ourselves on Gougeres and beer.

After a quick trip to Whole Foods (I tried to block out the noises the different kinds of seafood make when they scream- did I mention I have an over-active imagination?) I came home and Googled “how to prepare clams.”  There were all kinds of suggestions, from soaking them in actual seawater so they would purge their sand, to doing nothing more than shucking them and swallowing them raw.  I finally settled on scrubbing the outside and putting them in the fridge covered with a wet dish rag until dinner.  I do admit that I tried to open the fridge as little as possible that afternoon due to feelings of guilt — poor little guys knew that now that they were scrubbed, it was only a matter of time until the giant boiling pot….

Then it was dinner time.  After sauteeing some applewood-smoked bacon, onions and garlic in a large pot, I added two cans of diced tomatoes and some chopped roasted red peppers.  I brought it to a boil, and then it was time for the clams.  I took the clams out of the fridge and as fast as I could, dumped them in the pot, slammed the lid on, and ran out of the kitchen, just in case there really were any audible clam-screams from the pot.  About ten minutes later, I ventured back in and lifted the lid, and there they were– all beautifully open and simmering in the sauce.  Is there really any better smell than a sauce full of garlic and onions simmering away?  It is truly a salve for the soul.

Now, I must admit that immediately after eating dinner, I once again was forced to lay on the couch with a heating pad for the rest of the night.  But the look on my husband’s face when he came home and found clams for dinner made it completely worth it.

“Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves.

Do not now seek the answers,

which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,

live along some distant day into the answers.”

— Ranier Maria Rilke, LETTER TO A YOUNG POET

“Desire urges me on, as fear bridles me.”

– Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600)

I came across this quote in a book I was reading recently and the truth of it struck me.  It seems to describe almost every aspect of my life (and I’m betting I’m not the only one, although perhaps this is misplaced hope that I’m not the only one stuck in the mire).  Whether in my work, relationship, or personal ambitions, I always seem to be engaged in a constant back and forth dance between the desire for something I want to have, be, or create, and the fear that inhibits action.

My twenty-month-old niece came to visit recently and I spent the whole weekend watching her explore her world, envious of her unbridled zest for life and desire to do and discover whatever was in front of her.  At one point, in the pool in my neighborhood, my sister-in-law put her waist deep into the one- foot baby pool.  Instead of crying or cowering in fear at the new experience, she squealed with delight and began to walk, then run, through the water.  Even after she went headfirst under the water a few times because she got in front of her feet, she merely coughed, blinked the water from her eyes, and then begged to be put back into the water to continue her explorations.  When I lifted her out of the water and splashed her back in, she threw back her head in mid-air and screeched with what can only be described as the purest joy. 

Compare this to adult life, where, when one has fallen headfirst quite a few times into deep water (as I most certainly have), the tendency is to withdraw into yourself out of a fear of falling again rather than letting yourself experience life’s challenges with relish.  I wish I could bottle and sell some of the simple joy that radiated out of my niece all weekend over every new event or thing put in front of her — I’d be a rich woman.  Don’t get me wrong, there are most definitely moments in the life of a twenty-month-old that I would not describe as “radiating simple joy” and that in fact may be more accurately described using words like “exorcism.”  However, those moments are fodder for another post entirely.

I think my new mission will be to constantly remind myself to experience and live life like a twenty-month old; I’ll try to look at everything I see with wonder and attempt to let go of the fear to follow every one of my desires.  Then perhaps someday I’ll be able to master this life-long balancing act between desire and fear. I just might leave out the back to back episodes of Dora the Explorer.

Today marks the summer solstice.  A quick Google search reveals that in purely astronomical terms, this means the sun will be at its highest point in the sky for the whole year at noon today and that this is the longest day (and conversely the shortest night) of the year.  It also marks a turning point of sorts.  The days from this point on will grow shorter and the dark hours longer until the winter solstice, which marks the shortest day and the longest  night. 

Pondering this today (a girl can’t write legal memos all day long– honestly), I found the cyclical nature of this astronomical occurrence somewhat comforting.  No matter what is going on around you, whether it be in your personal life or things observed in the world at large, this sun cycle stays constant. Just as it has for thousands of years.  A reminder that days, even years, go on one after the other — each one marking a new beginning and reminding us that we (and especially our perceived problems) are a very small part of a larger force in the universe. 

A quick Google search also reveals that I am certainly not the first to ponder the deeper meanings of this cycle.  In fact, different religions and cultures across the world have ascribed important meaning to this day and the cycle on a grander scheme for thousands of years.  One of the more notable examples is at Stonehenge, whose main axis was designed to line up perfectly with the sun rising on summer solstice (I told you, it really is impossible to write legal memos all day…thank you Wikipedia).  In any case, I think I will take my camera out tonight and attempt to capture this solstice sun on its way out.  Until then, a poem in honor of the solstice. 

The Summer Day

– Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Ok, Ok, I know.  It is the epitome of laziness to keep posting someone else’s genius on your own blog….. but until I finish the actual post I have been working on, it bothers me to see nothing new!  Plus I really like this one. 

The Best of It

–       Kay Ryan

 However carved up  
or pared down we get,  
we keep on making  
the best of it as though  
it doesn’t matter that  
our acre’s down to  
a square foot. As  
though our garden  
could be one bean  
and we’d rejoice if  
it flourishes, as  
though one bean  
could nourish us.

The Guest House
– Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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