figs and yellow wood

I will tell you, I’m not very good at poetry.

I’m not that great at deciphering them, or giving you a deeper meaning.

Honestly, people will sometimes send me poetry they think I will love, and I respond, “whoa…” and drop phrases like, “Intriguing Duality!” (Maybe someone will catch my Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reference..)

I took a class in college, and did pretty well. But then again, it’s an intro to poetry class. Attempting to sound deep and at least trying will get you out of there with a B.

When I was in Jr. High, I memorized a poem by Rudyard Kipling called, “If” — it was for an English class taught by Mr. Adkins who would succumb to cancer the year I had him as my teacher. He is a legend of Picayune, MS.  I think he deserves a Hall or something.  He used to umpire little league baseball, host a local morning radio program, announce at high school football games and taught hundreds of youngins’, including my sister. He was that kind of guy. A guy who gave himself to a place and its people.

As an 8th grader, If was a pain in my ass to memorize.

If, to me these days, seems a lot more about power, trust, risk and being strong.

It’s a challenge. At least that’s how I read it.
It still resonates. I am no longer a student in class with the luxury of wondering. But sadness is poetic. It is filled to the brim with wrenching hearts and unresolved rhythms.

I think about one of the more popular Robert Frost poems. I remember reading it in that intro to poetry class thinking I had already figured it out. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, yeah, yeah, yeah. You take the road less traveled – it may be harder, but it’s worth it, right?

And then I noticed the name of the poem.

The Road Not Taken.

I’m not discovering anything new — hear me out.

Regret. Abandonment. The unknown.

I feel it deep in my belly, you see?

This regret that I can’t do both, or know what the other would have looked like. These are the choices we have to make everyday. All of which determine where we’ll be the next day – so on and so forth.

Like Sylvia Plath writing of the girl in the fig tree — waiting to pick the ripest fig — the best opportunity — and realizing one day, that all the figs had fallen to rot.

All of this stuff is about choice, right?

Each decision blends into another, and another. I can’t say I imagined myself sitting where I am now, with the things I’ve experienced tucked away in some bigger metaphor of my life thus far.

And the luxury to be given these choices in the first place. Goodness gracious.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I’m making choices for my life. I can say that much. Some have brought me to places I hope I never see again, but mostly, I embrace the things I learn and hold them close like some precious heirloom.

Whether or not I choose safety or comfort, and whatever point my life decides to end, I will know that I walked down the road that led me to here. Which, I guess, is right where I’m supposed to be. Rejecting that would be unfair.

Sometimes I choose the road less traveled, and more so, I choose paths where I can see around the corner. Some days, I need that.

I think back to my English teacher, Mr. Adkins.

I think about his legacy and how he loved what he did.

He had a quote on the back wall of his classroom that said, “The world is what you think it is, change the way you think, and you can change the world…”

And maybe that comes off a little cheesy, but as a kid learning literature and how the world works, it was huge. And in many ways, it still is.

I find great value in the journey, even if way continues to lead into way,

even if I don’t become the man about town,

or the person dreaming in the branches of a fig tree,

I will have chosen something that always seems unfamiliar. I suppose that is the way it will always be, even when we go back from where we came, it will look different.

We, will look different.

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